Nearly 1 million children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related illnesses, Festo Kavishe, UNICEF's representative to Zimbabwe, said in a statement reported by Zimbabwe's Herald at AllAfrica.com. Kavishe said that at least 1.8 million HIV-positive people live in Zimbabwe, and 2,000 people in the country die of AIDS-related illnesses each week.
Many of the AIDS victims are parents and primary income earners whose deaths mean thousands of children are left to "fend for themselves," Kavishe said, according to the report. Many children who lose parents to AIDS live with their extended family, but, Kavishe said, "in such instances, finding enough money to send the children to school, feed them, and clothe them is not always possible." He added, "We cannot afford to have more than 20% of the country's children more likely to fall out of school, more likely to be malnourished, or involved in hazardous forms of labor"
About 26% of Zimbabwe's population is HIV-positive, and life expectancy has fallen from age 52 to 37 since 1990, according to the South African Press Association at News24.com. Zimbabwe is also in its "worst economic crisis since independence" and is facing medicine shortages.