|UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson speaks at the Annual Session of the 2010 UNICEF Executive Board, held at UN headquarters in New York. At right is UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.|
By Vivian Siu
NEW YORK, USA, 3 June 2010 – Amidst global recession, climate change, natural disasters, conflict and food insecurity, UNICEF is more committed than ever to protecting the rights of all children at risk. Against this backdrop, on the second day of its 2010 Annual Session, the UNICEF Executive Board focused on relief efforts in humanitarian crises worldwide.
Humanitarian action in crises is a core mandate of UNICEF. In 2009, the agency responded to some 230 emergencies in more than 90 countries. But additional resources are required to meet new challenges.
According to Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson, UNICEF needs approximately $1.4 billion in new funding to sustain its operational and programme commitments – and that amount covers only 32 countries confronting the most urgent crises.
“Disasters are affecting the most vulnerable,” Ms. Johnson said in her remarks to the Executive Board yesterday. She went on to express her belief that effective leadership, adequate staff capacity and strong partnerships are key to reaching children in emergency situations.
|On the dais for day two of the UNICEF Executive Board's 2010 Annual Session (from left, front row): Deputy Executive Directors Omar Abdi and Hilde F. Johnson, Executive Director Anthony Lake, Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the UN and Executive Board Vice President Sanja Stiglic, Executive Board Secretary Nicolas Pron, Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry and Emergency Programmes Director Louis-Georges Arsenault.|
‘A Haiti fit for children’
Ms. Johnson highlighted UNICEF’s work in Haiti, where 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 15. The earthquake-shattered Caribbean nation was already the poorest in the western hemisphere, even before the disaster struck there in January.
UNICEF’s top concerns in Haiti include the relocation of quake-affected families and the protection of children from abuse and exploitation, Ms. Johnson explained.
To date, UNICEF has provided safe water to 1.3 million people and sanitation services to over 700,000 in the Haitian earthquake zone. Some 1,500 separated children have been registered, and many have been reunited with their families. Meanwhile, 340,000 children have been reached through child-friendly spaces and community-based activities.
Through these and other ongoing efforts, UNICEF and its partners aim “to build a Haiti fit for children – not just in Port-au-Prince but all over the country,” said Ms. Johnson.
|© UNICEF video|
|During their field visit in April, officers of the UNICEF Executive Board members meet members of the Muslim Hui minority living in Ningxia, China.|
Field visit to China
Also on the agenda yesterday was a recent visit by UNICEF Executive Board members to remote communities in China.
Each year, Executive Board members make field visits to country programmes to see firsthand what UNICEF is doing on the ground and to gain a better understanding of the challenges that children and women continue to face.
In April, the officers of the Executive Board travelled to Tongxin and Haiyuan counties in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, whose population is predominantly from the Muslim Hui ethnic minority. The delegation visited UNICEF-supported health and education projects, including a general hospital and village clinic, water and sanitation facilities, an early childhood development centre and a middle school for girls.
“We noted that China, as a significant participant in south-south cooperation, could be a role model for other developing countries,” said His Excellency Dr. Abulkalam Abdul Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and President of UNICEF’s 2010 Executive Board.
“Sharing China’s great experience in reducing child mortality and ensuring universal primary education could benefit other parts of the world,” he noted.
Progress on development goals
Today, approximately 20 per cent of the world’s population and 17 per cent of the developing world’s children live in China. As the discussion at the UNICEF Executive Board made clear, the Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved without significant progress across all of that country’s diverse social sectors and regions.
“We have already achieved MDGs ahead of schedule in areas [such as] eliminating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving primary education, reducing infant mortality and the prevention of malaria,” said Yong Ling Chen, Deputy Director General of the All-China Women’s Federation, speaking before the Executive Board.
“Although China has achieved tremendous economic and social development, we are acutely aware that China is still a developing country,” she added. “We still have problems related to uneven development around different regions, and economic and social development being out of sync.”