Government of Lao PDR and UNICEF reaffirm their commitment to children
Vientiane, September 23, 2009 - The needs and rights of children will remain a key priority as Lao PDR moves towards its broader development goals, say senior government officials and the United Nations Children’s Agency, UNICEF.
The affirmation came at a review meeting – attended by government ministers and international and national partners – which assessed progress at the half-way point in the 2007 to 2011 programme of cooperation between the Government and UNICEF.
Chaired by Standing Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Somsavath Lengsavad, and UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Ms Anupama Rao Singh, the meeting examined the achievements registered by UNICEF-supported programmes for health, education, water and sanitation, child protection, HIV/AIDS, and advocacy and communication. It also assessed the outstanding challenges facing a programme whose budget – set initially at US$ 39 million – is now set at US$ 53 million over its five year term.
In his opening remarks, Mr Somsavath said real progress had been made across the full range of activities targeting children. Among the most notable achievements, he said, were the 2007 national measles campaign, which succeeded in immunizing 95 per cent of children in the target age group, the improvement in primary school enrolment and in ensuring access to quality learning, and the enactment of a new children’s law.
“On behalf of the government, I would like to express profound gratitude and appreciation to UNICEF and other international organizations for their active support and contribution to the government’s efforts to advance children’s rights,” said Mr Somsavath.
For her part, Ms Rao Singh hailed the role played by the Commissions for Mothers and Children – at national, provincial and district levels – in ensuring that children remained at the centre of the government’s decision-making, planning and budgeting.
At the same time, UNICEF’s regional director urged the government to increase its budget allocations for children and women, and to invest in strong social protection mechanisms that would shield the poorest communities against external shocks such as the current global financial crisis.
“In terms of maternal and neonatal health, we have important unfinished business,” said Ms Rao Singh. “Too many mothers die in child-birth and too many young children do not thrive – or even survive – as they should.”
The mid-term review process was begun in June, and entailed evaluations and studies, as well as sectoral meetings involving UNICEF, the government and other partners, and children themselves. A number of recommendations emerged, designed to ensure that targets set at the beginning of the Country Programme are met. Among the recommendations:
- The need for greater geographic convergence of different programmes, thereby ensuring maximum impact on the lives of children;
The Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Leik Boonwaat, said UNICEF was a key partner in supporting the Government’s efforts to reduce infant and under-five mortality rates, and to achieve other targets set by the Millennium Development Goals. It was a role, he said, which underlined the United Nations’ continued support to Lao PDR.