David Beckham meets children in Swaziland affected by HIV and drought
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham travelled to Swaziland this week to see how 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund is helping UNICEF to support and protect HIV-positive children. During his visit Beckham heard and saw how the worst drought in decades - now taking hold of vast swathes of Eastern and Southern Africa - is threatening to wreak havoc on the lives of children and families already made vulnerable by HIV.
Swaziland has the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. Beckham saw how his fund is helping UNICEF to provide children with life-saving treatment and care and learned how over the next three years the 7 Fund is committed to contributing 27 per cent of UNICEF Swaziland’s annual budget for HIV/AIDS.
"Many of the children I met, some of whom were the same age as my own children, had lost one or both parents to AIDS and are themselves now living with HIV," said Beckham. As a father of four, it was hard to hear their stories about the daily challenges they face, which are now being made so much worse by this devastating drought.”
Vulnerable children must not be forgotten, says Beckham
Beckham continued: “Children who are already incredibly vulnerable because of HIV are now at risk from a new crisis that could have a devastating impact on their lives. Across Eastern and Southern Africa millions of children are at risk from hunger, water shortages and disease. I am speaking out for these children to make sure they are not forgotten at a time when they so desperately need our help. I am urging the global community to do all it can to help UNICEF deliver the life-saving food, medicine and clean water that these children so desperately need.”
Worst drought in 35 years threatens millions
A series of climatic shocks in 2014 and 2015 ruined harvests and depleted water sources, with one of the most powerful El Niño weather events in 50 years exacerbating drought across the region. The scale of the current crisis is unprecedented with food crises happening in tandem across 10 countries in the region, affecting some 26 million children.
UNICEF is working with governments and partners across Eastern and Southern Africa to reduce the impact of the drought and to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance. Currently, humanitarian aid is not keeping pace with the tremendous needs of children, with appeals across Eastern and Southern Africa less than half funded.