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LIFE-saving drugs are being denied to HIV positive children after aid was frozen to Guinea-Bissau, warns Plan International ahead of World AIDS Day (Dec 1).
The Global Fund to fight AIDS was forced to suspend funding to the West African country after a military coup in April.
Vital anti-retroviral drugs were already difficult to come by, but there is now a serious shortage.
“I don’t think these innocent children deserve to suffer,” says Eugenia Castro Guardia, manager of the Casa Emanuel orphanage, a partner of children’s charity Plan, which houses HIV positive children near the capital Bissau.
“I am really worried about the consequences, because if the situation continues those children will die.”
“They will lose any chance they had to survive longer, as they could with treatment and support.”
Government figures show Guinea Bissau has one of the highest HIV rates in West Africa, at 3.3 per cent.
And according to the UN, it is one of only four epidemic-hit countries globally where HIV infection rates among children are on the rise.
The National Secretariat against AIDS warns the majority of their financial support came from the Global Fund – and they are having major difficulties paying staff and supplying drugs.
A quarter of children at Casa Emanuel are HIV positive – and half of them were on ARV treatment.
“Our only medicine supplier is the National Secretariat against AIDS - we don’t have any other way to provide medications for our children,” says Eugenia Castro Guardia, 52.
“They also supplied us with critical nutritionally-balanced food, to keep our children healthy.”
Coup leaders have handed power to a civilian administration, but many Western countries have frozen aid and do not recognise the government.
UN agencies are working with NGOs and the government to try to bridge the gap and increase access to anti-retrovirals.
“We are calling for the international community to act quickly, to get treatment and support to those who need it,” says Fadimata Alainchar, Country Director for Plan in Guinea Bissau.
“We cannot stand by and allow children to suffer in this way.”
Another Plan project to provide school supplies and food to children affected by HIV and AIDS has been suspended – as it ran in partnership with the National AIDS Secretariat.
The programme also aimed to establish a network of organisations working with people living with HIV and AIDS and had a planned budget of more than £246,000.
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Notes to editors
1) Plan is a global children’s charity. We work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. A future you would want for all children, your family and friends. For 75 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfill their potential by:
· giving children a healthy start in life, including access to safe drinking water
· securing the education of girls and boys
· working with communities to prepare for and survive disasters
· inspiring children to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives
· enabling families to earn a living and plan for their children’s future.
We do what’s needed, where it’s needed most. We do what you would do. With your support children, families and entire communities have the power to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.
2) Plan UK is a member of The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 14 leading humanitarian aid agencies.
3) We work with children in 50 of the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future.
4) Plan was founded by British journalist John Langdon-Davies in 1937 to rescue orphans and other vulnerable children from the Spanish Civil War.
5) We have over 100,000 sponsors in the UK, generating £24 million a year, and 1 million sponsored children worldwide
6) Sponsorship starts at £15-a-month and, rather than going to individual children and their families, funds projects to improve schooling, health, nutrition and livelihoods across communities.
7) Plan's activities are guided by the principals of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other internationally-recognised human rights treaties, and is informed by the local context and knowledge of the country and region.