Lusaka, Zambia, Nov. 25, 2008
—Thousands of Zambians are being honored this week across the country in “thanksgiving” celebrations for their role in addressing the twin epidemics of HIV and malaria in this African nation, and helping their neighbors in need lead healthier, fuller lives.
The first-ever “Zambian Caregivers Day” celebrates the 18,500 volunteers who provide home-based care to vulnerable children and to people living with AIDS. Each week, they visit local households to tend to patients, widows and orphans, help with chores, urge people to be tested for HIV and help them get needed treatments and medications. These caregivers are trained and equipped through RAPIDS, a World Vision-led project funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and supported by the Zambian government.
“The women and men who work as caregivers, many of whom struggle with the impact of AIDS in their own homes, are heroic. This celebration is a well-deserved moment to thank and honor them for their service,” said World Vision’s Bruce Wilkinson, who is chief of the RAPIDS coalition. “These volunteers are the heart and soul of Zambia’s response to AIDS and malaria, and they show what can be done to transform millions of lives when dedicated people are empowered to help their neighbors.”
Patients and other clients who have been helped by caregivers will present their thanks publicly at a kick-off event in Lusaka on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 9 a.m. at the National Sports Development Complex. Speakers will include H. E. Dr. K. Kaunda, Zambia’s first president; the Honorable Donald Booth, U.S. ambassador to Zambia; and Dr Ben Chirwa, director general of the National AIDS Council.
Local celebrations will be held through the week in 52 districts across the country, coinciding with the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving and leading up to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. At these events, caregivers will be presented with certificates of appreciation, special clothing, and supplies to be given to their clients such as clothing, backpacks, games and personal care items from corporate donors.
Caregivers help save lives and improve overall health by teaching clients and other vulnerable community members how to prevent disease, referring people for HIV testing and anti-retroviral treatment, and helping patients adhere to treatment regimens. They provide material aid such as clothing and food, and refer clients for counseling and livelihood skills training that also help people recover and rebuild their lives. Last year, they also helped distribute to Zambia’s most vulnerable households nearly 500,000 mosquito bed nets supplied by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Business Coalition.
“Each caregiver relationship helps build the critical links to government health services and treatments at the community level,” Wilkinson said. “Each one plays a key role in a broad partnership that also includes governments, corporations, private donors and faith-based groups to reduce the suffering caused by AIDS and malaria and help millions of people live healthier lives."
Since its start in 2004, RAPIDS (Reaching HIV/AIDS Affected People with Integrated Development and Support) has become a model of how home-based care is revolutionizing the HIV and AIDS response in rural Africa. The program is funded by a $57 million grant from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and also leverages donations from corporations and private donors to help Africans more effectively serve their neighbors in need. The coalition includes World Vision, Africare, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Expanded Church Response and the Salvation Army.
For more information or interviews, contact Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz in Washington at +1.202.572.6302 or email@example.com
ENDWorld Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit worldvision.org/press.