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05.09.2003 General News

170,000 AIDS orphans in Ghana

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Accra, Sept. 5, GNA - The HIV/AIDS has rendered 170,000 children orphans and 173,098 have been identified to be vulnerable to the risk of being infected with the disease.

The Ashanti, Eastern, Greater Accra and the Volta Regions have the largest concentration of 77.1 per cent of the documented orphans and vulnerable children with the Northern, Western, Upper East and Upper West Regions accounting for 22.9 per cent.

This was revealed at an information dissemination workshop on Friday, which looked into a nationwide study on the status of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Ghana.

The study sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme and the Ghana AIDS Commission is to assist government to formulate a national policy on children affected by the epidemic and pave the way for the designing of programmes and their implementation based on reality and the actual concerns of the affected children.

Mr Clement Ahiadeke, Senior Research Officer at the Institute of Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER), who was presenting the report, said the study defined an AIDS orphan as a child under 18 years or who has lost either one or both parents and a vulnerable child to be a child below 18 years, who has been abandoned, orphaned or exposed to extreme physical or moral danger.

He said it was discovered that HIV/AIDS was more prevalent in the mining areas and border towns.

He said due to stigmatisation and discrimination most of the AIDS victims from the cities and urban centres migrated to the rural areas where they lived till they died.

He said the study, therefore, called for foster parenthood, capacity building for caregivers, sustainable livelihood strategy for caregivers, support to district health units and community supervisory groups.

Mr Alfred Salia Fawundu, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, said, "while we are all concentrating our energies on achieving the millennium development goals, it was barely possible to achieve those goals such as eradication of poverty, universal primary education or reduction of child mortality by the 2015, without tackling the issue of AIDS orphans and the vulnerable".

He said the major task assigned the government on the issue of AIDS was to formulate an appropriate policy and guidelines on how to tackle the serious issue and provide care and support for children and their caregivers.

Mr Fawundu said development assistance should target women as well as children when intensifying efforts in fighting against HIV/AIDS and poverty.

He also emphasised on the use of traditional structures to meet demands in governance as well as other innovative ways such as community sensitisation, empowerment, mobilisation and integration.

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