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Record-Breaking UNICEF-Norway Fundraiser Helps Zimbabwe Fight AIDS

Zimbabwe and eight other nations stand to gain from a fundraising drive in Norway Sunday, that raised nearly US$40 million for HIV/AIDS prevention programs targeting youth.

The US$1.9 million earmarked for Zimbabwe will be split between the United Nations Children Fund, to receive US$1 million, and the national Sports and Recreation Commission, which will receive US$900,000.

The money will be disbursed over a three year period, based on performance, with the first allocation expected to be disbursed in January 2008.

The funds will be channeled into programs linked to sporting events and other venues where youth commonly gather. Peer leaders and counselors disseminate AIDS prevention messages and advise.

Other countries earmarked for the money from the fundraising drive are Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Jamaica.

Funds to fight HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe have dwindled, over the years, for which some have blamed the political crisis. But significant funding has come from the United States, Britain, Sweden and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has disbursed close to US$9 million from Round Five approved in 2005.

UNICEF-Norway Executive Director Kjersti Flogstad said Sunday's televised fundraiser drive, held annually since 1974, was the most successful to date, bringing in 212 million kroner, or some US$39.6.

She attributed the large response to UNICEF's credibility as an organization, but also to participation by celebrities like former Manchester United Player Ole Gunnar Solskjater, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

Flogstad told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the organizers chose Zimbabwe because it has a high HIV prevalence rate, but at the same time has shown commitment to reducing the spread of the pandemic.

UNICEF-Zimbabwe communications chief James Elder said that while more money is needed, the donation will go a long way to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among the young, adding that sports is an effective channel for anti-AIDS messages.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...