Kenya dismisses rights body report on orphans

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Kenyan authorities have dismissed as "baseless and inaccurate" a report, attributed to the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), alleging that some one million AIDS orphans in the east African nation were neglected and did not receive adequate protection from the state.
The HRW report, published a day ahead of the UN General Assembly's special session on HIV/AIDS in New York Monday, said more Kenyan children affected by the pandemic in other ways, were also "falling through the tattered mesh of the government's social safety net as they are forced to drop out of school and often seek dangerous work on the streets in order to care for ill parents.
" Kenya's National AIDS Control Council (NACC) deputy director, Dr.
Patrick Orege, told PANA the report was incorrect and meant to "either malign the name of our country or to embarrass our President who is currently attending the UNAIDS meeting in New York.
" President Daniel arap Moi and other world leaders are currently in New York attending a UNAIDS meeting, which was opened by the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, Monday.
Orege explained that the government, through NACC, has developed a policy within its national strategic planning to take care of the vulnerable groups, especially AIDS orphans.
He said the policy covers mainly orphans and widows.
The HRW report, which has also been described by the local media as "a sham whose conclusions are less than honest", also insinuates that Kenyan AIDS orphans face social isolation and are often disinherited when it comes to land and property.
"These people are biased.
They are liars, and it is not our government's policy that our orphans are disinherited.
This is pretentious and discriminative.
"These people (HRW) are dishonest and I do not know what they wanted to gain by sitting somewhere in either Washington or New York and cooking up a report based on speculation.
"Their report is bereft of facts, figures and data," NACC public relations manager, Kassim Riga Mambo, told PANA Tuesday.
Orege explained that the Kenyan situation was not unique to merit such a bad report.
He explained that although AIDS was a new challenge to the African community, Kenya has in place policies to protect and care for AIDS orphans.
Currently, there are over 500 orphanages all over the country and more are being established through the constituency AIDS programmes, launched early last year, he said, adding that the NACC is currently collecting data to enable it assess the effectiveness of the current policy.
He said a task force on Orphans and Vulnerable Children has also been formed to develop guidelines on the management of HIV/AIDS orphans problems countrywide.
"It is completely pretentious and inaccurate for anyone to say Kenya does not care for its orphans and widows.
Only two African countries, Malawi and Zambia, have developed fully- fledged guidelines on the care for orphans, and Kenya is going to become the third one since NACC is very close to doing the final touches on the same, he said.
"The Human Rights Watch report distorted facts on the ground since we also have programmes in all sectors touching on early childhood education, culture and the economy," he explained.
In its editorial Tuesday, the mass circulation daily Nation wondered why the authors of the report decided to use such a "catchy and convenient terminology" of AIDS orphans while children are robbed of their parents everyday through other vicissitudes all over the world and not necessarily by AIDS.
The daily said the report was not balanced and lacked credibility by generalising issues affecting all African children.

26 june 2001 12:47:00

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