By Rob McBride
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines, 1 April 2011 – From agro-forestry to parent skills initiatives, Executive Board members from various United Nations agencies this week saw how their programmes are helping the Philippines recover from years of armed conflict.
|VIDEO: 1 April 2011 - UNICEF's Rob McBride reports on a visit by executive board members of UN agencies to witness the impact of projects in the Philippines. Watch in RealPlayer|
The six-day visit gave the inter-agency delegation on-the-ground insight into how joint projects with government and civil society partners are assisting the healing process. “This is what I believe the UN should be all about – transforming lives positively,” said Brian Bowler, the group’s leader and Permanent Representative of Malawi to the UN. “And in the case of the Philippines, they’re doing it successfully.”
The delegation included Executive Board members from UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Office for Project Services, the World Food Programme and UN Women.
|© UNICEF Video|
|Executive board members from UN agencies visited children at a UNICEF-supported day care centre in Mindanao in the Philippine,s as part of their trip.|
Making a difference
The recent relative peace in the decades-old armed conflict in the Philippines has been an opportunity for UN agencies to help the country progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
While they were there, the board members stopped by a UNFPA-supported birthing clinic, where they learned the difference that centres like this one have been making in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates.
“Many of the issues to do with poverty, and how poverty limits your choices, are almost universal,” said Ugochi Daniels, Country Representative in the Philippines for UNFPA.
Among other coordinated efforts, the World Food Programme is helping set up seedling nurseries as part of a series of agro-forestry initiatives, while a UNDP-supported initiative aims to develop a culture of peace within the country’s security forces.
During the visit, the Executive Board members split into three groups in order to see as many projects as possible. One toured projects in Mindanao – the second largest island in the Philippines – while a second visited Maguindanao, a province struggling with the after-effects of conflict. The third visited Albay, a province suffering the combined effects of natural disasters, including volcanic eruptions and typhoons, as well as the impact of climate change.
|© UNICEF Video|
|A UNICEF-supported early childhood centre has already had a positive impact in Mindanao in the Philippines.|
Problems in the Philippines, as in other parts of the world, are not restricted to rural areas. The UN delegation’s itinerary included a visit to one of the poorest districts of Metro Manila, the most populous urban area in the country.
Here, a conditional cash transfer programme is helping some of the most vulnerable families by providing them with financial support in return for completing parent skills training. In an emotional meeting during the visit, mothers told tearful stories of how their lives were being transformed by the scheme.
It was a message echoed by many others throughout visit. In Mindanao, mothers Analuz Madanding and Gene Datuin said a newly built, UNICEF-supported early childhood centre had already had a profound effect.
“Before, we only had a hut to meet in,” said Ms. Datuin, cuddling her two-month-old baby. Now they were getting real help in caring for their families, she explained, as her older children played happily and noisily in the pre-school class on the other side of the room.
|© UNICEF Video|
|UN delegates visited one of the poorest urban districts in Metro Manila in the Philippines, where a cash transfer programme is providing financial assistance to families.|
At a neighbouring health centre, staff were caring for the province’s newest citizen, a baby boy born just three hours earlier. Rosalina Roxas, a rural health midwife, was able to tell the visitors how equipment and training from UNICEF was helping the centre fulfil its aim to provide a safe pregnancy and delivery experience. “To have happy mums and happy babies, that’s our vision,” she said.
As the visit drew to a close, the visiting UN agency Executive Board members were in no doubt about the successes they had seen, as well as the challenges that lay ahead.
“I see a firm commitment here from people on the ground,” said Gillian Joseph, Vice President of the UNICEF Executive Board and First Secretary of Antigua and Barbuda, adding that her message when she returns to headquarters in New York would be one of continued support.