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Japanese health
organization wants soccer balls for AIDS orphans

Japanese health
organization wants soccer balls for AIDS orphans

A Japanese organization that fights AIDS unveiled a new program Wednesday aimed at engaging the 12 million African children orphaned by the deadly disease by getting them to play soccer.

The joint Japanese-African program seeks to address the social disruptions AIDS has caused on the continent by establishing youth soccer leagues, said Adjei-Barwuah Barfour, Ghana's ambassador to Japan. 'These are not issues you tackle with drugs,'' Barfour said at the United Nations. With the loss of a parent comes the loss of financial security, the breakdown of the family structure, and the disruption of educational opportunities, he said.

Tomiko Abe, chief director of the Stop AIDS Organization, told a news conference she was inspired to use soccer as a means of healing ''the wound on [the orphans'] heart'' when she saw how happily they received her gift of a soccer ball while she was on a mission to Sierra Leone. ''Even one football can give a dream to orphans,'' she said, speaking through a translator.

Abe, along with ambassadors to Japan from 10 African countries, hopes to use the international interest in soccer to focus attention on the need for a multifaceted response to AIDS.

Barfour and ambassadors from Kenya, Zambia, and Mozambique appealed for international support for the project, calling it ''all-encompassing.''

Stop AIDS has designed a soccer ball, covered with red AIDS ribbons, that will be used by both the youth leagues and during the cup finals of all the participating countries.

Awori Dennis, the Kenyan ambassador to Japan, said he hoped the soccer balls would ''galvanize'' the global community. (AP)

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