United Nations

LESOTHO: Need to improve local anti-AIDS capacity

A World Bank mission delving into Lesotho's humanitarian crisis was launched on Wednesday, with emphasis placed on building the capacity of local institutions to handle AIDS and help manage the country's drought-induced food shortages. There are a number of groups who want to work on HIV/AIDS, but fail because they cannot write compelling proposals, and who cannot yet be relied upon to see that results are reached, Julie McLaughlin, who co-heads the Bank's HIV/AIDS Capacity Building and Technical Assistance Project for Lesotho, told a meeting of stakeholders. Thirty-one percent of adult Basotho are HIV-positive, according to official government figures. But the data is now two years old, and a senior Western diplomatic source told PlusNews that preliminary findings from a recent survey by the health ministry and UNAIDS indicated that currently 36 percent of the adult population was living with the virus. Over the past five years, the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has awarded Lesotho US $29 million for AIDS-related programmes, and $5 million for tuberculosis prevention and mitigation efforts. This was grant financing, which required no repayment. While Lesotho's health ministry had made strides in coming to grips with a disease, which was exacerbating the nation's acute food crisis by undermining agricultural production, the stakeholders meeting with the World Bank mission felt local NGOs and the private sector had more to contribute. Some 600,000 Basotho out of a national population of 2.2 million currently depend on emergency food relief from the World Food Programme. The goal of the World Bank's mission is to make recommendations to the government on providing local capacity to handle AIDS projects, in time for the government's next fiscal year, which commences in 2005.(Source: IRIN PLUSNEWS,4 February)

The World Summit on the Information Society

The ITU Council, the annual governing body of the Union, decided, on 28 July 2000, to proceed with the preparation of a World Summit on the Information Society. It will be held in 2003, under ITU's leadership and in close cooperation with other interested United Nations Agencies. The aim of the Summit is to develop a common vision and understanding of the information society and to draw up a strategic plan of action for concerted development towards realizing this vision. The Summit will also seek to define an agenda covering the objectives to be achieved and resources to be mobilized.

Governments have failed children orphaned by AIDS

Africa's governments are failing children affected by HIV/AIDS - up to 65 percent of countries in sub-Saharan Africa have no national policy in place to care for orphans and vulnerable children, a new UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report has found. According to the report Africa's Orphaned Generations, the cultural practice of the extended family caring for orphans has so far relieved the pressure on governments and national institutions, but this was slowly unravelling. Families had become overstressed and overwhelmed, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told journalists at the release of the report on Wednesday in Johannesburg. Orphaned children could no longer remain invisible, shielded by their extended families. It has been too easy for government leaders to assume that the extended families will take on this burden, Bellamy said. Child rights activist Graca Machel, who attended the launch of the report, reiterated the need for African governments to play a greater role. In light of the commitments made by African leaders at the 2001 UN General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS to develop national policies by 2003, the failure of countries to respond was even more disappointing, UNAIDS deputy director Kathleen Cravero pointed out. The numbers presented in the UNICEF report sound an urgent alarm for action. More than 11 million African children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, more than one in five children will be without their parents by 2010. Although some governments had introduced orphan policies, there were still a lot of barriers to be overcome before they reached those hardest-hit, Machel noted. She called for new thinking on the way people affected by the epidemic - particularly children - were treated. Paying attention to their emotional and psychological needs was one of the most difficult issues we have to deal with. The UNICEF report recommended interventions that would encompass more than the material needs of families caring for orphans. Psychosocial support is an essential, but often overlooked, service ... early intervention is vital. The Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative [http://www.repssi.org/] is a project featured in the report as an example of how to address these needs. This technical resource network brings together over 30 organisations in eastern and southern Africa and aims to offer psychosocial support to over 25,000 children over the next five years. The report concluded with an outline of the responses needed from African governments and the international community to alter the course of the crisis. Nevertheless, it pointed out, the family remained the single most important factor in building a protective environment for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.(Source: PLUSNEWS 26 November2003). Full report: http://www.unicef.org/media/files/orphans.pdf

South Korean elected to helm of WHO

South Korean Jong Wook Lee was elected on Tuesday to replace Norway's Gro-Harlem Brundtland at the helm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), pledging to put Africa at the top of the UN health agency's agenda. He has also pledged to decentralise the Geneva-based WHO and turn it into a results-based operation. With 19 years experience at the organisation, most recently as head of the 'Stop TB' (tuberculosis) programme, Lee told reporters that it was a great honour and very humbling to be chosen. He secured 17 votes against 15 votes for his main rival, the Belgian head of the UN's programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Peter Piot, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters. Clearly Africa should be the priority, and Africa is the priority, especially for HIV/AIDS, Lee told reporters, adding that WHO was committed to achieving the eight development goals adopted by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 aimed at eradicating hunger, poverty and disease. The 192 member states will now have to approve the choice of director-general at the May 19-28 World Health Assembly, though it has so far never rejected the executive board's nomination, Chaib said. Lee will be the WHO's sixth director general. Previous incumbents since the UN health agency was set up in 1948 have come from Canada, Brazil, Denmark and Japan. (Source: SAPA-AFP, 28 January 2003)

Africa: New commitment urged to fight AIDS

Three themes dominated the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona this week: treatment, funding, and the impact of the epidemic on women. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy told the conference that AIDS had a human face, and it was that of a young woman. Figures show that AIDS disproportionately affects women, especially in Africa. UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, said: The face of women has been put in full sight at this conference more than ever before and it demands a change of values in society and within families. But Lungie Mazibuko of South Africa's National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS is not yet convinced that any changes will happen. HIV positive women and members of the Women at Barcelona group on Friday took to the streets to demand action to address what has been for too long a silent pandemic among women. On Tuesday, US Health Secretary Tommy Thompson came in for a rough ride in Barcelona. He was shouted down by AIDS activists and prevented from addressing the conference. Waving placards saying Fund the Fund and chanting, Where is the 10 billion?, the activists expressed their frustration at the stinginess of developed countries such as the United States. So far, out of the US $10 billion required annually, only US $2.1 billion has been pledged to the Fund with US $700-800 million available for disbursement in 2002. The US $10 billion a year target would represent just 0.05 percent of the gross national product of the G8 countries, according to the AIDS coalition Act Up. Peter Piot, UNAIDS Executive Director told the conference: Treatment is technically feasible in every part of the world. Even the lack of infrastructure is not an excuse … US $10 billion annually is all it will take for a minimum credible response to the epidemic. It is three times more than is available today. A number of presentations at the conference demonstrated that AIDS treatment campaigns are possible in poor communities. Yet funding and the political will – both local and international - remain major obstacles. The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week challenged the international community and called for three million people, mainly in Africa, to have access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy by 2005. So far less than 30,000 Africans are on ARVs, yet UNAIDS warned that research suggested the disease was still in its early stages. Meanwhile, the first delivery date for the raft of promises made at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on AIDS last year is 2003. These include the integration of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment and support and impact mitigation priorities into the mainstream of development planning, including poverty eradication strategies and national budget allocations. The XV International Conference on AIDS will be held in Bangkok, Thailand in 2004. Bangkok will be a time of accountability, Piot said. We will know who has delivered on the first UNGASS promises (Source:Barcelona, 12 July (IRIN)

Advances in Africa Information Technology

The head of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Monday urged the continent to swing behind the information technology revolution sweeping the world. Kingsley Amoako said that information and communication technology would form a central plank to development in Africa. Information technology had a vital role to play in improving education and health across the continent, he stressed. Launching a two-day meeting in Addis Ababa of the UN’s Information and Communication Technology Task Force (UN ICT), he said Africa had already made great strides. Over the last three years almost every African country had become connected to the Internet allowing access to global information networks, he noted. But he told delegates from around the world that much had to be done to help build an African information infrastructure. He said the time was ripe to overcome this gap and utilise the ICT to promote social and economic growth in the region. The ICT would transform the continent, he stressed, adding that its central role would be to enhance development and poverty eradication programmes. The task force plans to help build networks between the private and public sector, and involve governments and local communities. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the UN ITC - which will also act as his advisory body - in November 2000. [This Item is Delivered to the Africa-English Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: Irin@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org ]

Bid to bypass government on cheap AIDS drugs fails

Western Cape Health MEC Nick Koornhof is attempting to bypass the government and get the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organisation and pharmaceutical companies to deal directly with him. However, UNAIDS has rebuffed his advances, saying they can deal, only with the national government.

Child Health in South Africa

Series Name: 
HST Update
Published by: 
Health Systems Trust
The care and protection of children is a practice and ethic rooted deep in the wisdom and culture of all societies, wrote James P Grant, the previous executive director of UNICEF. He was referring to a deep and universalbut often neglectedknowledge that children are vulnerable. Their situation is closely linked to poverty, and more closely related to social inequality than to general economic hardship. Under apartheid, South African children were exposed to gross human rights violations such as detention and shooting. But the less dramatic, more pervasive, violations of apartheidsuch as racial exclusion from most of the land and the economy, and discrimination in health care and educationultimately did more harm. These softer violations have left todays children with an historical disadvantage as a result of social inequity, underdevelopment and poverty. About 61% of South African children live in poverty and, since families with large numbers of children are more likely to be poor, a disproportionate number live in poor households. Children's rights raise important questions for all those concerned with the health of children. These range from the macro-economic issues to interactions with individual patients.