Aids leaves one-third of Swazi children orphaned

Nearly one-third of Swaziland’s children are considered orphaned and vulnerable as Aids takes its toll on the country, a study commissioned by the state’s emergency-response council said on Friday.

”There are currently 130 000 OVCs [orphaned and vulnerable children] in the country, which represents 31,1% of all children countrywide,” the study said. ”However, it is projected that the OVC figure could rise to 200 000 by the year 2010.”

It added: ”HIV and Aids is permanently altering the structure of Swazi society. It is expected that by 2025 there will be a thinning of the older age groups and the very young.”

Life expectancy in the country dropped from 60 years in 1997 to the world’s lowest of 31,3 in 2004, while the mortality rate has sharply increased across the entire population over the past 15 years, the report added.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund website, HIV prevalence among 20- to 30-year-olds is nearing 50%, higher than the national adult average.

In Swaziland, close to 40% of adults are living with HIV, the highest infection rate anywhere in the world, the fund said. — Sapa-AFP

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