|UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy visits with children in tsunami-affected areas of Thailand.|
PHANG NGA, Thailand, 4 February 2005 - UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy was in southern Thailand on Friday visiting schools and coastal areas that were hard hit by December’s devastating tsunami.
Ms. Bellamy visited many primary schools in the Phang Nga province, where the tsunami caused the greatest damage. The Tublamu primary school was among the schools destroyed. Ms. Bellamy spoke with students, including 10-year-old Puik, seven-year-old Suintip and her twelve-year-old sister, Oranne, all of whom lost their mothers.
According to The Associated Press, after walking through ruined classrooms at the Tublamu School, Ms. Bellamy said that "the needs here in Thailand, for the Thai people, are largely long-term rebuilding of livelihoods and community.”
UNICEF’s Thailand office estimates that 12 schools were seriously damaged by the tsunami, but already most (75%) of children have returned to school.
“Schools are the second most important institution for these children after their own family. Teachers are like second parents to them,” said Programme Coordinator for UNICEF Thailand Andrew Morris. “It’s vitally important that all these children go back to school, back to an environment with which they are very familiar.”
Ms. Bellamy also told the Associated Press that tsunami-affected children need to return to normalcy by returning to school, and she added that, “in some cases, for the most traumatized, some particular (medical) assistance will be very important."
On Thursday, Ms. Bellamy was a special guest at the MTV Asia Aid benefit concert in Bangkok. A majority of the funds raised will go to UNICEF for continuing tsunami relief efforts. On stage, Ms. Bellamy told 11,000 screaming fans that “we’re here to help.”
On Monday, Ms. Bellamy addressed international education experts, gathered in Bangkok, to galvanize efforts to advance girls’ education in South Asia.
She called on regional leaders at the meeting ‘Accelerating Girls’ Education in South Asia – 2005 and Beyond’ to capitalize on opportunities to improve educational systems throughout the region as they rebuild schools in tsunami-affected areas.
The three day meeting brings representatives of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations together with education experts and government officials. Ms. Bellamy encouraged the leaders to embrace the concept of schools as safe havens and child-friendly spaces, where the right of every child to learn, grow and play is respected.
She stressed the importance of partnerships and working together to find every child out of school, create the social conditions to get them into school, and ensure the school environments that will allow every child to thrive and grow to their fullest potential.
2005 is the target set by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for gender parity in primary and secondary education. This year will be the first milestone in the quest to fulfil the 2015 goal of quality education for all.
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