Recognition of HIV/AIDS role in humanitarian crisis

A "vigorous response" to HIV/AIDS within the context of the current humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe was lacking, a UN multi-agency mission has found.

In its latest humanitarian situation report, the UN Relief and Recovery Unit (RRU) based in the capital Harare, reported that the mission - which comprised representatives of the UN Children's Fund and UNAIDS - visited Zimbabwe from 12 to 14 March.

"Despite a supportive environment that has been created for HIV/AIDS prevention, mitigation and care, the vigorous response that is commensurate with the size of the epidemic is not observable - specifically in preventing new infections, extending care for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), responding to needs of orphans and vulnerable children ... [or] mitigating the economic and social impacts on communities," the mission noted.

The visit was part of a regional mission to look at how HIV/AIDS interventions, particularly by UN agencies, could be scaled up at country level in response to the humanitarian crisis, the RRU said.

The mission met with the Zimbabwean Minister of Health Dr PD Parirenyatwa, permanent secretaries of five ministries, the director of the National AIDS Council and representatives from Zimbabwe AIDS Network, donors, NGOs and business.

The coverage and quality of the HIV/AIDS response was limited and varied, there was also a "lack of a sense of urgency and ... weak coordination among partners (government, donors, UN agencies and NGOs) at all levels", the mission noted.

Consultants had been approached to carry out a rapid needs assessment in the context of the humanitarian crisis, the RRU reported.

An estimated 2.2 million Zimbabweans are living with HIV/AIDS and over 600,000 children have been orphaned by the pandemic.