27 September 2008

Rwanda: Regional NGOs Meet Over Aids Fight

Kigali — Members of the civil society from 14 eastern African countries were in Kigali recently for a two-day meeting to discuss their future plans in the fight against the HIV/Aids pandemic in the region.

The conference, which was organised by the Eastern African National Networks of Aids Service Organisations (EANNASO) is expected to help national NGO forums against Aids to design future strategies against the disease, its organisers said.

Rwanda's NGOs Forum against Aids also benefitted from the meeting as it works on its plans for next year, according to the forum's chairman Aimable Mwananawe.

He said that there is always need for members of the civil society in different countries to meet and exchange ideas on their activities against the disease.

Participants from civil society organisations against the epidemic from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Eritrea, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Sudan, Somalia, and Zanzibar joined their counterparts in Rwanda to discuss their plans, enhance their links, and harmonise regional civil society initiatives against Aids.

"The meeting helped us because we shared experiences from others and compared them with our realities here while we design our own strategic plans," Mwananawe said.

He said that the civil society has a major role in the fight against the Aids epidemic because it deals with the implementation of major programmes set against it. He also argued that there is need to share information, the forum he heads having joined EANNASO in 2002.

"It is necessary to connect local NGOs to international NGOs so that they collaborate in their interventions," he said, adding that some international NGOs compel local ones to take up their works when they leave the country without completing their interventions.

According to the Country Coordinator of the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), Dr. Kékoura Kourouma, Rwanda is a good example in Sub-saharan Africa where interventions against HIV/Aids are in good shape.

He told the EANNASO meeting that participants will learn a lot from Rwanda, especially on how to focus anti-Aids programmes on specific groups like women, pregnant mothers, and others.

"Rwanda is a pilot example for the prevention .you consult largely your Rwandan colleagues," he advised.

The EANNASO's Programmes Manager, Olive Mumba, said that the national forums of anti-Aids NGOs needed to have enough capacity to coordinate their works and regional networking to support their combined efforts.

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 30 million people infected with HIV/Aids, 95 per cent of whom live in developing countries.

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