|Executive Director Ann M. Veneman shakes hands with the incoming UNICEF Executive Board President, Ambassador Oumar Daou, at the board’s first regular session of 2009. Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson is at left.|
By Roshni Karwal
NEW YORK, USA, 4 February 2009 – On the first day of its first regular session of 2009, UNICEF’s Executive Board welcomed its new President, His Excellency Ambassador Oumar Daou, Permanent Representative of Mali to the United Nations.
Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said she looked forward to working with Ambassador Daou and predicted that 2009 would be a productive year for the board, which is UNICEF’s governing body. The current board session is taking place at United Nations headquarters through 6 February.
Veneman also thanked the outgoing President, Ambassador Anders Lidén of Sweden – along with the outgoing Vice Presidents, Ambassador Gert Rosenthal, Permanent Representative of Guatemala, and Ambassador Hamidon Ali, Permanent Representative of Malaysia – for their work and commitment over the past year.
Progress on health and child survival
Veneman went on to highlight UNICEF’s work on health in the run-up to the 2015 deadline for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. She noted that progress is being made in reducing the mortality rate for children under five; in 2007 there were 9.2 million under-five deaths, compared to 12.8 million in 1990.
|The outgoing UNICEF Executive Board President, Ambassador Anders Lidén (centre), speaks at the board’s first regular session of 2009, held at United Nations headquarters in New York.|
The Executive Director remarked, as well, on the rise in global production of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Production increased from 30 million nets in 2004 to 100 million in 2008.
In addition, Veneman pointed out that the world is approaching the 90 per cent mark in reduction of measles cases before the 2010 deadline for that milestone. But much work remains to be done on measles immunization, notably in India.
Veneman also stressed that strides are being made in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment – particularly the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as treatment of paediatric AIDS cases.
‘The State of the World’s Children’
The findings of UNICEF’s flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2009’, were another highlight of Veneman’s address to the board.
This year’s report focuses on maternal and newborn health. It shows that 99 per cent of the estimated 500,000 annual maternal deaths take place in the developing world, where having a child remains one of the most serious health risks for women.
UNICEF continues to work with its partners to close the maternal health gap between developing and industrialized nations, Veneman said.
Addressing food insecurity
Veneman then reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to coping with global food insecurity.
The number of people affected by food insecurity around the world is increasing due to rising prices, decreased supply and lack of access to nutrition in many developing countries. Food insecurity is one of the many ongoing humanitarian crisis that UNICEF must continue to address, Veneman said.
In response to the food crisis, she noted, one UNICEF project in Ethiopia uses cell phones and SMS text messaging to monitor and track supplies of Plumpy’nut, a ready-to-eat therapeutic food for undernourished children. Having real-time data on where Plumpy’nut stocks are available allows UNICEF to meet child nutrition needs more effectively.
Help for children in emergencies
Veneman also commented on the critical need for humanitarian access to reach children affected by conflict – not only in the Gaza Strip but also in countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As emergencies become increasingly complex, their impacts are more and more devastating, especially for vulnerable children. Veneman told the board that UNICEF remains dedicated to providing life-saving assistance to children affected by disasters – both natural and man-made – and to protecting child rights in even the most difficult circumstances.
Executive Board 2009