Monday, December 11, 2006

One in 4 Zimbabwe children are HIV/AIDS orphans


Zimbabwe now has the world's highest percentage of children orphaned by AIDS, with almost one in every four children having lost at least one parent to the disease, the United Nations Children's Fund said on Tuesday.

Zimbabwe is among the countries worst hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which kills more than 3,000 people every week and accounts for 70 percent of hospital admissions.

But the crisis-hit southern African nation has also become one of the continent's few AIDS bright spots after its HIV prevalence rate declined to 18.1 percent this year from 25 percent five years ago.

Despite this, UNICEF said the number of children orphaned by AIDS continued to rise.

"Almost one in four children in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million, are now orphaned, having lost at least one parent, and this number is growing," UNICEF Zimbabwe representative Festo Kavishe said in a statement sent to Reuters on Tuesday.

"HIV and AIDS have dramatically increased children's vulnerability in recent years to the point where Zimbabwe now has the highest percentage of children who are orphans in the world," Kavishe added.

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