|Impact of HIV and AIDS on Families and Children (UNDP, 1997, 5 p.)|
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Catherine Nyirenda and I come from Zambia. I am 24 years old and I have two sons, Darlington and Simon, who are 3 and 1 years old. I am not married, and live alone with my sons in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Lusaka is a city of about 1 million. Within the city, I live in Mutendere, a crowded residential area.
Before I get on to the main subject of my talk, which is about the impact of HIV on the family and children, I want to explain a bit about Zambia.
My country is very poor. The annual income per person in Zambia is the equivalent of 300 dollars a year and it is very unequally distributed, so that 70% of people live below the poverty line, which means that they spend most of their total income on basic food alone. I am a typical urban person, so let me briefly explain what I spend in a month.
In a month, I earn about 50, 000 Kwacha, which is worth 50 U.S. dollars. Well talk later about how I earn it. This is how I spend my monthly earnings:
My rent is 25 dollars a month. If I dont pay, I can get credit for two months, but if I fail to pay after that time I will be thrown out. I spend the next 11 dollars on maize meal, our staple food. I have about 14 dollars left for everything else. Charcoal to cook on, cooking oil and vegetables cost 12 dollars in a month. This leaves 2 dollars for the month to buy sugar, soap, baby requirements, my own clothes, transport, health needs and medical services.
My impression is that the North is sick of poverty and death in Africa - this is all that gets attention, in your news. Many may think that suffering is normal for us - but it isnt. We hurt and grieve and hunger as much as you would, and we hate disease, poverty, poor medical services, and schools.
In Zambia, the family is of great importance. We pride ourselves on looking after our relatives, including the sick and the orphans. This can be hard at times, especially with the poverty suffered by most families. Health services are very basic, even where the commitment of the Ministry and its staff is good. Some drugs are supposed to be free - like TB medicine - but they are often unavailable so people have to buy them privately.
There is hardly any safety net for people unable to cope with poverty. Some projects and NGOs offer services in particular areas, but this extends to very few people. Last year, it was shown that only 3% of the population had contact with social welfare activities, half of this being non-Governmental. The annual Government social welfare budget is less than one dollar for every person in Zambia.
These harsh realities are being made worse by HIV. HIV currently affects up to one-quarter of the sexually active population. Everyone knows people who have died, who are sick, or who are HIV positive. Everyone knows orphans, many of whom are unloved, uncared for, and uneducated.
HIV in a situation of harsh poverty is particularly cruel. It takes away our childrens parents when they are most needed, both economically and emotionally. Quietly and gradually, HIV has eaten into many families in Zambia, causing high levels of hardship and distress.