Press Release

African Youth Alliance Partners Visit Ghana and Botswana Fighting AIDS, Promoting Health

6 April 2001
Author: UNFPA

United Nations, New York - Representatives of the three partner agencies involved in the African Youth Alliance (AYA) visited Ghana and Botswana during the first week of April in preparation for the implementation phase of the Alliance’s programme.

After a year of preparatory activities and building alliances with government agencies and youth organizations in each country, the Alliance, which groups the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) and Pathfinder International, is gearing up for a four-year implementation phase. In addition to Ghana and Botswana, the participating countries include Uganda and Tanzania.

The partnership, set up to help fight HIV/AIDS and improve adolescent reproductive health, was made possible by generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through a US$57-million grant to the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Population Fund. Activities include:

  • Promoting abstinence or delay in sexual activity;
  • Introducing and improving youth-friendly reproductive health services;
  • Reducing unwanted pregnancies;
  • Promoting gender equity and equality, and empowerment of the girl child; and,
  • Building self esteem and promoting livelihood and life skills.

Visiting Ghana and Botswana were Mr. Kunio Waki, Deputy Executive Director of the UNFPA; Mr. Christopher Elias, President of the Seattle-based PATH; Mr. Dan Pellegrom, President of Pathfinder International; Ms. Elizabeth Lule, Vice President of Pathfinder (based in Nairobi); Ms. Fama Ba, Director of the UNFPA’s Africa Division; and Ms. Audrey Elster, Programme Manager of the Alliance.

Mr. Jacob Obetsehi Lamptey, Chief of Staff to the President of Ghana, and Ms. Joy Phumaphi, Minister of Health of Botswana, pledged their governments’ full commitment in "this war on AIDS".

Botswana is one of the hardest hit countries – one in every three people of reproductive age is infected with the virus that causes AIDS – the highest rate in the world. The infection rate in Ghana is 5 per cent. The government is hoping to stop the further spread of AIDS so that the pandemic does not reach the crisis proportions it has taken in other countries.

"Our best work comes from partnerships", commented Mr. Elias of PATH. "We invest a lot of time in building partnerships and management capacity in order to ensure that our local partners – government, NGO or community action groups -- are capable of carrying out activities successfully and instituting a sustainable set of project activities." The five-year programme marks the first time that the three organizations have joined in a multi-country initiative in Africa.

After a highly publicized visit to Ghana, involving the Ministers of Health and Women’s Affairs, the group went on to Botswana. On April 5 the representatives of the three Alliance partners visited one of the projects that will soon benefit from the Gates grant – a youth friendly health centre run by the Botswana Family Welfare Association, an NGO formed in 1996. The health centre, in the suburb of Mochudi, will soon be able to offer recreational activities, such as basketball and football (soccer). A library will also be added and the existing health clinic, which caters only to the needs of youth, offering both services and counselling, will be upgraded. The centre has already launched a highly successful outreach programme designed by and for youth to advocate for responsible behaviour, safe sex and healthy sexual and gender sensitive attitudes. As part of this, it trains peer educators to take the message of safe sex and responsible sexual behaviour to secondary schools. The University of Botswana will assist in this effort. The centrepiece of the message is that since youth are most at risk, they must take more responsibility for their actions and know how to prevent the spread of this disease that has decimated Africa.

At a ground breaking ceremony marking the beginning of construction for the upgrading of the clinic, Mr. Waki said, "It is a big task to improve services for youth, but this is a highly successful model that, thanks to the Alliance and the Gates Foundation’s catalytic grant, can now be replicated in other parts of this country."

Ms. Lule, from Pathfinder, is convinced the Alliance will have a significant impact on preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, in addition to offering better quality, youth friendly reproductive and sexual health services. "In Ghana we visited one clinic already run by and for youth; this is something the Alliance is promoting in each country. It is vital that youth are empowered to respond to this health crisis – through access to information and services designed with their special needs in mind."

The only way to change ingrained traditions, points out Ms. Lule, is by promoting "real behaviour change and this can only come from within these societies. But parents, community leaders and others in authority need to help create a supportive environment in which youth can make rational choices. In these countries it is literally a matter of life or death."

Africa is the region hardest hit by AIDS: 14 million Africans have died from AIDS. In 1999, 23.3 million Africans were living with the disease; 3.8 million were infected with HIV during that year. The 21 countries with the highest HIV prevalence in the world are in Africa. In at least 11 African countries, adult prevalence rates exceed 10 per cent. Half of new infections are among young people aged 15-24.

-- -- --

The UNFPA is the world’s largest multilateral source of population assistance. Since it became operational in 1969, it has provided more than $5 billion in assistance to developing countries. The United Nations General Assembly has welcomed the positive contributions the UNFPA has made since then in improving the quality of human life.

Contact Information:

Obi Emekekwue
Tel.: +1 (212) 297-5043
Email: emekekwue@unfpa.org

Ghana
Population : 30.1 mil
Fertility rate
3.8
Maternal Mortality Ratio
319
Contraceptives prevalence rate
33
Population aged 10-24
31%
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 56%
Girls 57%

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