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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of African Affairs > Releases > Remarks > 2006: African Affairs Remarks

Screening & Discussion: Orphans of Mathare

Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary
Washington, DC
September 12, 2006

Good afternoon, I would like to welcome our guests to the Department of State, and I would like to thank all of you for joining us for this special event.

I would like to take acknowledge Michele Moloney-Kitts, from the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, the office, which coordinates the U.S. government response to HIV/AIDS abroad.

This afternoon, the Bureau of African Affairs has the privilege of hosting a screening of a timely and significant documentary brought to us by award-winning filmmaker, Randy Bell. The film treats a subject that is familiar, namely HIV/AIDS.

There has been a great deal of discussion in recent years about the scourge of HIV/AIDS, which has ravaged sub-Saharan Africa , tearing apart families and communities. As Western medicine has cured ailments from Polio to Malaria, we have all adapted, coming to expect modern life to be safer and more comfortable than our ancestors did.

By contrast, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has marched progress backward in Africa . Consider that the life expectancy for a child born in Botswana has decreased from 69 years in 1990 to 34 years in 2006. In the small southern African nation of Swaziland , more than one-third of adults age 15-49 were estimated to be living with HIV last year.

Looking at all of sub-Saharan Africa , the life expectancy for a child born today stands at 46.1 years. Conquering this virus has become the defining challenge of our era.

This is new terrain that raises urgent questions, only some of which are immediately apparent. For example, the U.S. Government has responded with the PEPFAR program, which is helping to provide anti-retroviral treatment to those who are HIV-positive. Twelve of PEPFAR's 15 focus countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa , which reflects the sizable impact HIV has had on Africans.

As of May 2006, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator had approved $217 million for the current fiscal year to fund programs for orphans and vulnerable children in the focus countries, or 12.5 percent of the total prevention, care, and treatment budget of the focus country program and for good reason -- i n 2005, the United Nations counted 12 million orphans, that is children age zero to 17, living in sub-Saharan Africa.

PEPFAR's spending also includes $63 million to fund for pediatric AIDS treatment.

This is a social issue with far-reaching repercussions, and this is part of what Orphans of Mathare explores. How does a society cope with ever increasing numbers of orphans? Who looks after, cares for, and educates those children? And how do these children make sense of an unpredictable world in which parents do not live long enough to raise their own sons and daughters?

The questions and complexities are so numerous, and the statistics bandied about in press accounts about those who are infected are so large and impersonal that we run the risk of becoming disconnected.

It is helpful to focus on a particular place. The film takes place in Nairobi , Kenya , a country in which the HIV prevalence rate among those 15-49 years old is about 6.7%.

In watching this documentary, you will have the opportunity to put faces with the news reports. You will become acquainted with some of the children who are grappling with these very issues each day, but not exclusively.

It is within this context that the children of Mathare demonstrate remarkable resilience, forging ahead as best they can and demonstrating that bravery is something we possess in greater quantities than any of us typically know.

And with that, I would like to present Orphans of Mathare . At the end of the documentary, we will have a discussion led by filmmaker, Randy Bell.

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