|© UNICEF video|
|The members of the Executive Board receiving the greetings of the people from the Chumpi Andean community during their trip to Peru.|
By Anwulika Okafor
NEW YORK, USA, 4 April 2007 - UNICEF’s Executive Board, led by Board President Ambassador Javier Loayza Barea of Bolivia, recently visited Peru to see how UNICEF’s work has helped to tackle some of the issues in this developing society.
In Condorcanqui Province, the Executive Board met with members of the Candoshi and Shapra indigenous communities of Peru. The communities live in the remote reaches of the Upper Amazon and their representatives had to take an 18-hour trip down the river to make the meeting.
Guillermo Sumbi, representative of the Candoshi community, told them how Hepatitis B had one been on the verge of decimating their village before vaccinations sponsored by UNICEF were initiated. “The vaccines saved my people,” Mr. Sumbi said.
After the meeting, Ambassador Loayza remarked that “this challenge exemplifies the work that UNICEF carries out in the most remote areas. We know that in 2003 only 22 per cent of the local population had access to Hepatitis B vaccines. Today, 88 per cent of the children born in these areas have already been vaccinated.”
Bringing all spheres together for change
While in Peru, the Executive Board delegation also spent time examining how UNICEF, its allies and other United Nations agencies could contribute to helping governments take action and counteract threats affecting children and adolescents´ rights.
Along with the meeting in Condorcanqui, they also visited UNICEF’s work sites in the capitol city of Lima, and the Andean zone of Cusco.
|© UNICEF video|
|A member of the Chumpi ethnic group welcoming the members of the Board and giving their testimonies about how vaccination against Hepatitis B saved their community from extinction.|
In Lima, the Board visited the Mother Child Institute, which educates the community on the risks of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and also visited the Ollantay elementary school, where they met with students of the school’s Defence Centre who explained how the centre was providing them with a unique opportunity to seek solutions to their problems.
“I am 16 years old and got pregnant four months ago. I was going to drop out of school but now thanks to the Defence Centre I can continue to attend classes. I need to keep on studying at school, I need to get ahead, to get a degree,” said Sonia, a student.
In Cusco, they visited an Early Childhood and Development Programme implemented by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health that has succeeded in cutting child malnutrition in the area by almost half. They met Irma Santiago, who recently starting bringing her six children to the programme. “When I was a young mother there was nobody around to teach us what we should do to protect our children from getting sick or dying. We did not go to the health centre because we were afraid. We have different customs,” she said.
Peru has made significant progress over the last few years. Under the government of President Alan Garcia, Peru has seen changes in social policies that have led to promising results including a 5 per cent reduction in chronic malnutrition. In addition, the country is working towards more efficient strategies to reduce inequality and discrimination against its indigenous communities and tackle the problem of extreme poverty that affects over 48 per cent of its population.