In the meantime, what in Switzerland and other parts of Europe has slipped into the background in the media, is still dramatic in countries like Zambia and has a high priority: AIDS has wiped out a whole generation.
It is a problem for the whole nation. Although the fight against the virus is showing first fruits and a decline in the new infections has been achieved, HIV and AIDS remain a dangerous destroyer of lives in Zambia. Here are some recent statistics from the UNAIDS:
60’000 new infections yearly
20’000 related deaths yearly
1’200’000 people living with the virus
60% of the infected receive treatment
80% of the infected pregnant women are being treated to prevent passing on the virus to the babies.
9000 children are infected yearly after the virus is passed on from the mother during the pregnancy.
60% of those who are HIV positive hide their symptoms.
A serious social problem with major consequences
That these numbers are now far more positive than a few years ago shows how AIDS has devastated the nation in the past. A whole generation is missing today, almost 50% of the population is under 15 years old and the average age is 17. This obviously has a deciding influence on Zambian society and its economy. The country is lacking these adults both in the workforce as well as in supporting the community. The many single and double orphans are then pushed around from one remaining family member or acquaintance to another, sometimes ending up living on the streets. These guardians are often older people who themselves have hardly enough to live on which is why these children rarely have a stable home environment. As a result, the children’s nutrition, medical care and education suffer.
“Facts of life” in the holidays
Most probably the only way to break out of this vicious circle of the virus and to realise the greatest potential in Zambia is to educate the children better. One way to fight the epidemic is in the integration of this topic in schools, so that the young people are taught the facts of life and about HIV. Sexual teachings are part of the regular school timetable. “ Often the ability to convey clearly the delicate information in the right and sensitive way is lacking” says Eugene Mthontola, head teacher of the tuition programme at FCTrelief. The foundation is therefore very aware of the importance of giving competent sexual education. Although there is no specific HIV/AIDS programme, the team of teachers working with Eugene Mthontola talk with the children and adolescents regularly about this topic. “We encourage the young people to take responsibility for their relationships and sexuality, especially at school age” says headteacher Eugene Mthontola. He knows of children who are HIV positive, through their parents. “These children experience the consequences personally and therefore know more about the virus and the resulting disease.”
This April as part of the 2 week holiday programme there was a workshop on the topic of sexuality. “ We usually speak to the boys and girls in separate groups about this topic, so that we can talk more personally and specifically with them.” Mthontola explains. Project manager at FCTrelief, Tabea Kusongwa is a qualified nurse, who is very competent at talking regularly about sexual issues with the girls.
Education makes us free
FCTrelief’s assignment is to build up mature and confident citizens out of the underprivileged and vulnerable young people. The “hamster wheel” of poverty can only be broken through the right schooling. Support the sustainable aid programme and help the young generation to achieve a better future.