|© UNICEF video|
|The Hon. Marlene Mungunda, Namibia’s Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, spoke to the Annual Session of the Executive Board on proposals for scaling up the UNICEF Country Programme in Namibia.|
By Rachel Bonham Carter
NEW YORK, 9 June 2005 – During the third day of the Annual Session of UNICEF’s Executive Board, UNICEF Regional Directors presented draft proposals for changes to 20 Country Programmes, including the call for more funding. The members of the Executive Board are responsible for overseeing and approving UNICEF programmes in 157 countries around the world.
Much of the discussion focused on the Eastern and Southern Africa region. UNICEF Regional Director, Per Engebak, had earlier in the week offered a bleak description of the declining situation for children in his region. "Child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa remains the highest in the world," said Mr. Engebak. "No country in the region is on course for reaching the MDG [Millennium Development Goal] of reducing child mortality by two thirds. Life expectancy for teenagers is falling."
Namibia and Uganda came in for special mention. UNICEF programmes in both countries need additional funds in order to help deal with urgent challenges.
In Namibia, HIV/AIDS is hurting efforts to improve child survival, development and protection – and is starting to reverse hard-won gains in social development for children. The Honourable Marlene Mungunda, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, was delighted that Namibia’s programme was being considered for more funding.
"I am so amazed and so thankful," Ms. Mungunda told UNICEF. "I have to thank God for seeing the plight of the Namibian children. Through the hand of the United Nations and UNICEF they could really benefit."
In Uganda, a humanitarian crisis caused by a 19-year conflict in the north of the country has been largely forgotten by the international community and especially by donors. Görel Bogärde, the UN Representative for the International Save the Children Alliance, read a statement on behalf of several non-governmental organizations working in Uganda calling for UNICEF to take a stronger leadership role.
"In a way you could say this is not about a country," said Ms. Bogärde before the session. "This is about 15 million children – invisible children. We’d like to raise the international awareness of the situation there. UNICEF has a unique platform. UNICEF can reach governments. UNICEF can speak out within the UN system. We need UNICEF to do that and that’s why we’re here."
Ann M. Veneman's remarks to UNICEF's Executive Board (also available in PDF format)