|© UNICEF Swaziland/2007/ Phakathi|
|Fútbol Club Barcelona President Joan Laporta (left) and Vice-President Raphael Yuste (right) present a UNICEF partnership football jersey to the Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland, Constance Simelane.|
By Nonhlanhla Hleta-Nkambule
NKAMBENI, Swaziland, 13 December 2007 – A ball made from plastic bags is not among the usual equipment used by professional footballers. However, that didn’t stop members of the renowned Fútbol Club Barcelona from joining in a pickup game with children at a 'Neighbourhood Care Point' for orphans and vulnerable children during a two-day visit to Swaziland earlier this month.
The players were part of a delegation that included FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta and club Vice-President Raphael Yuste, as well as representatives from the Barcelona Foundation and the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF. In 2006, UNICEF and FC Barcelona entered into a global partnership to assist children around the world.
Swaziland was the first country to benefit from the global venture, receiving €1.5 million to improve the lives of children affected by HIV. During their recent visit, the delegates saw firsthand how children are benefiting from the partnership.
“We are in Swaziland to learn about the children here and the challenges they face,” said Mr. Laporta. “We are proud to partner with UNICEF to develop our social responsibility, and to try to make the world a better place for children. We are playing the most important match of our lives here – a match against poverty and disease. Together, I think we can win this match.”
Accomplishments to date
Swaziland has one of the highest adult HIV-prevalence rates in the world, along with chronic drought conditions and widespread poverty.
“The challenges facing children and women in Swaziland are great but they are not insurmountable,” said UNICEF's Representative in Swaziland, Dr. Jama Gulaid. “With continued collaboration between government and civil society, and generous funding like that from Barcelona, we can bring hope to these children and give them a better life.”
|© UNICEF Swaziland/2007/ Phakathi|
|Dressed in traditional Swazi attire, Joan Laporta visited a Neighborhood Care Point for orphaned and vulnerable children that is supported by a partnership between UNICEF and FC Barcelona.|
Less than a full year into their partnership, FC Barcelona and UNICEF have already accomplished much for children in Swaziland.
In addition to establishing 23 new Neighbourhood Care Points, the partnership has supported training of nearly 900 caregivers to serve 35,000 children. Birth certificates have been provided to over 43,500 children, giving them access to health care, education and other social services.
In the schools, children are learning about life while playing. Safe water and ‘play pumps’ have also been provided to nearly 4,000 students. The innovative play pumps lift water without the aid of electricity and act as an educational tool for children, who learn about the importance of safe water as they play.
Sport as a tool for mobilization
Mr. Laporta and the delegation visited a rural clinic in Shewula that has recently expanded its services and increased HIV testing and counselling, helping to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
The delegation’s last stop was at a primary school that has implemented the ‘Life Skills through Sport’ programme, which weaves messages about HIV awareness and gender equality into sports.
“Sport is one of the best tools to mobilize people – to talk to them and teach them,” said Mr. Laporta. “I am proud that we can use football and other sports as tools to help children in need, to teach them important life lessons and also to help them have fun and enjoy being a child.”