AIDS Kills Zimbabwe Child Every 15 Minutes -- UNICEF

In Zimbabwe, AIDS is killing a child every 15 minutes, and international donors must respond to the country's epidemic with the same intensity they have fought for democracy, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said today. Bellamy, on her last visit to Africa as the agency's chief, said Zimbabwe receives just a fraction of AIDS funding compared to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, despite having one of the world's largest HIV/AIDS caseloads and a surge in child mortality.

"The world must differentiate between the politics and people of Zimbabwe," Bellamy said at a news conference in Johannesburg. Zimbabwe has experienced an economic and political crisis during the last five years sparked by President Robert Mugabe's campaign to redistribute white-owned farms to landless blacks.

"The under-5 mortality rate has risen 50 percent since 1990 [now 1 death in every 8 births]… 1 in 5 Zimbabwean children are now orphans; a child dies every 15 minutes due to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe; and 160,000 children will experience the death of a parent in 2005," according to a statement by UNICEF.

In 2004 and 2005, Zimbabwe received no HIV/AIDS funding from key donors in the region, including the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the World Bank's Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program for Africa, UNICEF said. The country received limited funding from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, UNICEF added.

The three agencies spent about $74 per HIV-infected person in southern Africa, but that average dropped to just $4 for Zimbabwe, said UNICEF. Zambia, which has a slightly lower HIV rate than Zimbabwe, received about $187 per HIV-positive person. UNICEF said that figure rose to $319 in Uganda and $802 in Eritrea.