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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Kenya accused over Aids orphans
Aids orphans in Zambia
There are 13 million Aids orphans across Africa
The Kenyan Government is accused by a human rights group of abandoning millions of children orphaned by the Aids epidemic, and exposing them to widespread abuse.

If their parents had died in any other way these children would have been at the top of the agenda

Report researcher
A report by New York-based Human Rights Watch says that many Kenyan youngsters are forced out of school to become breadwinners when family members fall ill or die as a result of contracting Aids.

It charges the Kenyan Government with failing to protect them and forcing many of them into dangerous jobs, including prostitution.

The report coincides with the opening of the first special session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted to the Aids crisis.

Human Rights Watch researcher Joanna Csete said: "The rights of children have been the missing piece of the Aids crisis."

President Moi
Moi declared Aids a national disaster in October 1999
"If their parents had died in any other way," she said, "these children would have been at the top of the agenda. But because the parents died of Aids, with all the stigma that implies, they're at the bottom."

The report, "In the Shadow of Death", says there are a million children in Kenya orphaned because their parents have died of Aids. It says the government should have done more to reduce the stigma for these children associated with HIV/Aids.

No education

Children quoted in the report said they have had to leave school after their parents died in order to fend for themselves. Some girls said they felt prostitution was the only way to make a living.

In the Shadow of Death also highlights the difficulty that orphaned children have in inheriting their parents' property because of the complex legal process that they are unable to negotiate.

The report wants the Kenyan Government to be more active in supporting the orphans and helping them get through school.

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi declared Aids a national disaster in October 1999, but the government has struggled to come to grips with the epidemic in a country where two million are HIV positive.

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See also:

25 Jun 01 | Americas
UN opens landmark Aids debate
19 Apr 01 | Health
Aids epidemic 'underestimated'
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