Windhoek While African countries such as Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Benin and Ethiopia joined several other countries across the globe to celebrate the International Children’s Day last week, may we not also forget the children living with HIV and AIDS.
The International Children’s Day which is mostly celebrated by other countries on June 1st and universally on November 20 comes at a time when the world has adjusted priorities to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ideally, the day is celebrated to promote children’s rights and speak for those who cannot speak up for themselves. It unites various countries in awareness events and charity cases. However, this year there were limited activities due to the social distancing restrictions that have been imposed globally to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the vulnerable children whose rights ought to be protected are children living with HIV particularly in developing countries.
Of course, with the new measures and developed scientific researches-Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) for people living with HIV have proved effective in reducing new HIV infections in children as well as the associated deaths.
Besides effective treatment, these children need to have a balanced diet that complements their ART, social support and caregiving are also pivotal. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the issue of nutritional care for HIV-infected children is essential as it determines the growth and upbringing of the children.
Well, given the COVID-19 that is currently at the centre of attention, such concerns for children living with HIV have been overshadowed. The social distancing measures are compromising countries economically; especially, people living in Africa who rely on the informal sectors for survival as they have no cushion against the lost incomes.
Given the current state, families are more vulnerable to hunger and enhanced poverty. The scenario has led to children living with HIV in Africa being grimly affected due to the lack of an adequate and balanced diet to promote their growth as well as complementing their treatment. If their diet is compromised it means they are more prone to opportunistic infections.
Yes COVID-19 is real, it has taken millions of lives and affected lives globally, but it is up to African governments, communities, organisations, families to express kindness and support to such the vulnerable children.
It begins on household level, ‘Many drops of water make an ocean’-Julia Carney, an American poet once said.
It lifts hearts to note that some individuals, families and organisations have recently started to come to the aid for these children. Among them are: Thembeka Ndlangamandla a lady from ESwatini who teamed with two of her friends to cater for the vulnerable during the COVID-19 phase.
Ndlangamandla and her friends are some of the individuals in the communities of ESwatini who expressed their kindness in Mbambane by providing food packages to the people in need including children living with HIV.
“We started because we were seeing the effects of COVID-19 in terms of lay-offs and sectors that could not operate because it was impossible to socially distance. So we started out helping those people with nothing more than a basic meal so that we could stretch the funds we had to feed more people,” said Thembeka.
“It felt like it was inadequate; most days felt like we were putting a band aid on a gunshot wound. However, we started seeing that people were actually getting some relief and we realised that we are doing something worthy. We honestly could not have made the impact we have if it weren’t for our fellow Eswatini who have continued to give us aid over the last 2 months.
Similarly, Edith Chibhamu a Zimbabwean business woman, an advocate for children’s right who has a foundation-‘Angels for Life’ which benefits children in Ghana, Zambia and Zimbabwe among other countries is also extending a helping hand.
Her motive is driven by the fact that she is a characterised by a soft spot for the vulnerable. This is why she launched a campaign under her foundation called ‘Feed the Children Campaign’.
“The campaign was inspired by the observations I made during this COVID-19 phase in our continent. It is really disappointing to witness how concerns of the children living with HIV are now low priority with only COVID-19 being the centre of attention. These children regardless of their deteriorating health shoulder responsibility to their siblings as well. Most children living with HIV are forgotten from the face of many African countries, we abandoned them in slums where they are struggling to get enough food, resources or medication to keep them going,” said Chibhamu.
“I know we are doing something, but we are still failing to give hope for a brighter future to these kids. They are beyond any reasonable doubt failing to feel our love and support. Children are the most vulnerable to all this, most of them don’t even understand what is taking place at this moment in time, all they can feel is hunger and the coldness from our folded hands. I believe we can do more for them.”
On the other hand, there has been complaints on how HIV campaigns are mostly on the adult side leaving the kids with no shoulder to lean on and as their plights fall to deaf ears. The scenario is worse for those living in the remote areas of our beloved continent-Africa. The majority in the remote areas are struggling to get access to medication from the cities because of the limited movements.
Let communities stand in advocacy of the satisfaction of these children’s basic rights. There is need to increase the aid that is specifically for these children.
We are all affected economically because of this COVID-19, however, we can all hold hands together with our various states and make a difference for the children of our soil. Divided we perish but together we shall stand for the betterment of our continent.