|© UNICEF Kenya/2007/Mwabe|
|Children of Kenya march in Nairobi, calling upon Parliamentary candidates to pledge investment in their future.|
By Pamella Sittoni
NAIROBI, Kenya, 17 December 2007 – Four hundred children, their teachers and UNICEF staff members brought a section of Kenya’s capital to a standstill as they marched through the streets with music and banners proclaiming their arrival.
The procession was part of the ‘Look Out for Leaders Who Look Out for Children’ campaign launched by UNICEF’s Representative in Kenya, Dr. Olivia Yambi, last month in advance of the country’s general elections, which will take place 10 days from now.
“Even though we cannot vote, we too have our issues,” said one of the children, Arian Ogoo, 13. “We know that Members of Parliament are very important people. They make the laws and they pass budgets. They can do a lot for children.
“We want them to make sure no child dies from a cause that can be prevented, such as malaria or measles,” Arian added. “We want those who want to go to Parliament to promise that all children, even the orphans and those from very poor families, will enjoy their right to health, education, protection and equality.”
A call to invest in children
The campaign in Kenya calls on all candidates for Parliamentary seats to make a commitment to invest in children in three key areas: child survival, quality education and social protection for youth. The objective is to increase allocation of the national budget to social-sector ministries and increase expenditures on children.
The campaign also aims to increase advocacy for children and support the passage of laws and policies that will result in better protection of children’s rights.
|© UNICEF Kenya/2007/Mwabe|
|UNICEF’s Representative in Kenya, Dr. Olivia Yambi, looks on as presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka signs up to support the children’s campaign.|
The three top Presidential candidates – current President Mwai Kibaki and his challengers, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka – have signed on to the campaign, along with some 350 other Parliamentary candidates. The effort has been well publicized by the media and by UNICEF staff who travel to local constituencies to get signatures.
UNICEF hopes that at least half of the 222 politicians who are elected to the next Parliament will also be supporters of the ‘Look Out for Leaders Who Look Out for Children’ movement.
Rights to survival and development
While Kenya has made great strides in protecting children’s rights, more must be done to accelerate realization of their rights to survival, development, education and social protection, said Dr. Yambi.
“The right to survival and development remains unfulfilled for many children,” she added. “The last Kenya Demographic Survey published by the government in 2003 showed that out of every 1,000 children born alive, 115 died before their fifth birthday, most of them from preventable causes.”
The campaign asks candidates to commit themselves to support and vote for improved child health through increased allocation of resources to rural health facilities and cost-effective interventions for maternal and child survival.
The movement is also asking leaders for specific action to alleviate malnutrition, build up educational standards and opportunities, and expand Kenya’s ongoing cash-transfer programme for the social protection of orphans and vulnerable children.
“By taking actions for children and showing political commitment, parliamentarians can play a decisive role,” said Dr. Yambi. “Investing in children is essential now and for the future prosperity of the nation.”