By Thomas Nybo
CHUÑU CHUÑUNI, Bolivia, 27 April 2011 – Officers of the UNICEF Executive Board this month received a first-hand look at how their efforts are helping to improve the lives of children in the poorest country in South America.
|VIDEO: 15 April 2011 - UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the visit to Bolivia by officers of the UNICEF Executive Board. Watch in RealPlayer|
In a five-day trip, they toured programmes throughout Bolivia, including a visit to the indigenous community of Chuñu Chuñuni, which sits more than 4,000 metres above sea level.
As the Executive Board delegation stepped from their vehicles, they were warmly greeted by the locals, who draped wreaths of local flowers around their necks, as the sounds of flute and drum music from a local band filled the thin air.
|© UNICEF video|
|In Chuñu Chuñuni, Bolivian villagers showed the UNICEF Executive Board their efforts to protect the rights of children.|
“I'm truly humbled by the reception we've received this morning,” said Gillian Joseph, Vice President of the UNICEF Executive Board and First Secretary of Antigua and Barbuda. She and the other Executive Board representatives examined the community's integrated approach to local development, health, education, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene. They toured classrooms and health facilities, and had a lively question-and-answer session with local leaders.
Special children’s session
With one-third of the population under the age of 15 and three in five families living in poverty, the stakes of UNICEF's work in Bolivia were clear during the Executive Board visit.
Among the stops on the visit was a trip to the Plurinational Assembly, where children were given the floor for a special session to celebrate Bolivian Children's Day. They each had a turn at the microphone to share their experiences and thoughts about the future of the country.
“I was very impressed by your work today, and I wish older leaders could learn from your example. Congratulations,” Nicolas Pron, Secretary of the Executive Board, told the children.
|© UNICEF video|
|In the small village of Chuñu Chuñuni in Bolivia, the UNICEF Executive Board examined the community's integrated approach to local development programmes.|
The delegation also had a private meeting with Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera, who spoke candidly about challenges and successes in the effort to protect children's rights. “Educational programmes are now more fair in the rural areas, where education now recognizes the native culture and languages,” he said.
Education was also front and centre on a visit to a child-friendly school in the city of El Alto. More than 100 schoolchildren gathered outside and staged a number of short plays, each focused on an area of a child rights. “All little boys, girls and adolescents have the right to an education,” said one eight-year-old girl, who stood proudly in front of a large, hand-made banner.
Children had the opportunity to ask the questions when the Executive Board group visited Eco Jóvenes Bolivia, a UNICEF-supported radio programme that gives children from poor areas a platform to express their views. They write and produce their own material, which is heard across the country.
Two girls stepped inside a recording booth with Ms. Joseph, who was quickly asked about the goal of her trip to Bolivia.
|© UNICEF video|
|Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera met with the UNICEF Executive Board to discussing remaining challenges in the effort to protect children's rights.|
“The UNICEF Executive Board is here to observe a number of projects and programmes that have been conducted here on the ground in Bolivia,” she replied. “We chose Bolivia because there are a number of projects being implemented and because we have such close relations with the Government of Bolivia. We are working very closely together. So far, we have been very impressed with what we have seen.”
Safeguarding the future
Other stops included a trip to Cochabamba, where the delegation toured a UNICEF-supported health clinic, which operates alongside a traditional clinic. They also attended the signing of a declaration affirming child rights.
By the end of their trip to Bolivia, the Executive Board delegation left with an appreciation of the challenges facing the country's children, and what it will take to guarantee their rights moving forward.