UNICEF in emergencies

Day of the African Child 2005: An opportunity to reflect

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Osama, 12, lives with his family in the Krindig camp for displaced people in West Darfur. UNICEF-assisted schools have been set up in the camp. The fifth grader says he hopes to “become the President of Sudan and bring peace to [my] homeland.”

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, 15 June 2005 – Countries across Africa are set to observe the ‘Day of the African Child’, 16 June 2005 – an annual celebration and an opportunity to reflect on progress towards to health, education, equality and protection for all the continent’s children.

The Day has been observed every year since 1991. It was created to honour the memory of innocent children in Soweto, South Africa, hundreds of whom were wounded or killed during a march in 1976 to protest the inferior quality of their education and demand their right to be taught in their own language.

The main celebration this year is taking place in the Gambian capital of Banjul. The theme of this year’s Day – orphans and vulnerable children – recalls the challenges faced by children who have lost one or both parents and by children who are disabled. In The Gambia alone, 55,000 children have lost one or both parents. Of these, an estimated 7,000 are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS.

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A girl from the Mumuila ethnic group, holds a traditional basket, near the town of Lubango, in the south of Angola.

Conflict and HIV/AIDS

Armed conflicts and the HIV/AIDS crisis are among the worst problems afflicting Africa’s children. The situation in Liberia is an example. UNICEF Representative in Liberia Angela Kearney says the civil war in that country led to a breakdown in social services, still affecting children today. “Many schools are destroyed, many teachers have left. Vaccination campaigns haven’t always happened. We are also very concerned about the threat of HIV/AIDS in Liberia.” Aid efforts for most of Africa’s chronic emergencies remain underfunded. Only two out of 10 nations with recurring emergencies are expected to reach UNICEF funding targets. The continent’s five least funded countries with recurring emergencies are Burundi, Liberia, Guinea, Eritrea and Angola.

Countries recovering from or in the midst of civil conflict are among those that require the most urgent support. One such country is Angola. “After 27 years of civil conflict, child mortality rate in Angola is among the highest in the world,” says UNICEF Representative Mario Ferrari. “One in four children will die before the age of five. Birth registration almost doesn’t exist, leaving millions of children out of school.”

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Children at a camp for internally displaced people in Darfur, Sudan.

Emergency funding

Mr. Ferrari says children in the country face other very serious problems, including malnutrition and landmines, the latter a deadly legacy of the recent civil conflict. “We could say that Angola is the worst country to be a child. We face a huge challenge to help Angola rebuild, step by step. But if you witness the eagerness and willingness of the people to return to their normal lives, you can’t stay insensitive.”

The funding picture for the response to the Darfur crisis is also bleak. Despite making headlines around the world, funding for Darfur has only reached 30 per cent of its target for this year.

Other African countries for which emergency funding has failed to meet 50 per cent of the target this year are the Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Côte d'Ivoire, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda.

Through its work in Africa, UNICEF is dedicated to helping create a brighter future for the continent’s children. The organization welcomes the Group of Eight’s recent decision to cancel the debt of 14 African nations. UNICEF also encourages the leaders of the G8 to consider increasing aid to African nations, particularly those plagued by chronic emergencies.


 

 

Video

15 June 2005: 
New York UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on “The Day of the African Child”.

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Audio

UNICEF Representative for Angola Mario Ferrari talks about the challenges facing Angola's children.

UNICEF Representative in Liberia Angela Kearney describes how children are made vulnerable by Liberia's 15-year civil war.

UNICEF Representative in Burundi Catherine Mbengue discusses the country’s situation and urgent needs for funds.

UNICEF Representative in Guinea Marcel Rudasingwa talks about how Guinea's children are affected by poverty, HIV, and conflict.

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