Children Need Increased Access to AIDS Drugs

Children Need Increased Access to AIDS Drugs

By Paul Ntambara, The New Times

NYAMAGABE — The District Mayor, Alphonse Munyantwali, has called for increased access to antiretroviral drugs for children living with the virus.

He revealed that out of 1,000 children living with HIV in Nyamagabe district, only 350 have access to antiretroviral therapy.

He was speaking last week at a ceremony to donate scholastic materials to AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. Over 300 children received the materials as part of New Year’s gifts.

"There is need to mobilise children who require antiretroviral drugs. This has to be coupled with sensitisation campaign, because children with HIV/AIDS still face stigma in homes," said Munyantwali.

The materials were donated by different organisations engaged in helping vulnerable children, in partnership with the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Program (CHAMP) and the United States Agency for International Development.

Anne Smith, the Country Director of CHAMP, said the problem of orphans and other vulnerable children needs a multifaceted approach given their rising numbers.

"Poverty, disease and lack of psycho-social care among others, still affect the livelihood of children, especially those orphaned by HIV/AIDS, those from child-headed families and other vulnerable families. There is need for concerted efforts if this problem is to be solved," she said.

The national program for orphans and other vulnerable children developed by the Ministry of Local Government and other partners was adopted in 2003 by Cabinet.

The problem of orphans and other vulnerable children in Rwanda remains a big challenge given the turbulent history of the country. Figures from the 2006 strategic plan for orphans and vulnerable children show that there are over 1.2 million orphans in Rwanda, 83 percent of them living in rural areas.

The number of orphans below the age of 15 is expected to rise to more than 1.5 million in the year 2010, according to experts.

Pierre Munyura, the deputy coordinator of CHAMP, said that the project works with organisations and local authorities to reach out to these children.

"The needy children are identified by the local communities through their local administration. Help to these children is channeled through different partner organisations," he said.

"We are using a family approach in helping these children whereby aid goes to people who urgently need it in cases where beneficiaries are many. People who can run micro projects are helped with start-up capital so that they are able to sustain themselves," he added.

CHAMP helps children at the primary and secondary school levels, but assistance to primary children accounts for 50 percent of all the beneficiaries. They are helped with scholastic materials, health insurance, and in some special cases, food.

The program also caters for pupils in vocational training who account for 25 percent of the 39,000 beneficiaries from 20 districts across the country.

The ceremony organised under the theme, ‘education is a fundamental right, help all children attain it’ attracted organisations like the Forum for Women Education, CARITAS, African Evangelistic Enterprise and Pro-Femme Twese Hamwe.