Tanzania, 2 May: Address by UNICEF Regional Director Elhadj As Sy at the 2nd TICAD Ministerial Follow-up Meeting
From the perspective of the United Nations Children’s Fund we are very optimistic about development on the African Continent, particularly as it relates to children. We know that the most recent report from the UN Secretary General shows a mixed picture of progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, but we believe that in recent years the foundations have been laid for more rapid progress. We must now seize the opportunity to build on these foundations, and the continued support of the Government of Japan and the TICAD process will be critical to helping African States make the maximum progress towards reaching the MDGs.
What is the good news? Notwithstanding the global economic problems, the economies of many African countries are in fact improving, and some countries are investing more of their own resources in critical areas of health and education.
African States are taking economic integration seriously, for example the East African Community, with its HQ right here in Arusha, and SADC are moving fast in this direction. Notwithstanding some continuing major challenges, we also believe that governance in most parts of Africa is also improving, and this will definitely help to ensure that available resources, including resources from the donor community, are effectively utilized.
There has been a revolution in access to communications in Africa, mobile phones and local radio stations are everywhere, people are more connected with each other than ever before, and have access to up to date information on issues affecting them. The problems of development are better understood, and underdevelopment is becoming less accepted, less tolerated.
Huge investments in education over the past 30 years have also yielded results, and we have better educated citizens than ever before, citizens who understand that they have rights and are prepared to work to ensuring that their rights are fulfilled.
In the area of health, there have been dramatic developments. HIV and AIDS continue to undermine health, particularly in the southern quarter of our Continent, where it is a major contributor to both child and maternal mortality. But there is some good news here as well, the prevalence of HIV has stabilized almost everywhere, and there are some early signs now that prevention is starting to work and that HIV rates are going down.
HIV has also led several States to start to overhaul their entire health systems, and make them more efficient – and this should have positive implications for maternal and child health. Dramatic progress has been made in reducing mother-to-child- transmission of HIV, and we – together with UNAIDS and its co-sponsors as well as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - dare to now believe that we can virtually eliminate HIV in children by 2015 if current progress is sustained. In order to achieve this, we have to prevent women from being infected in the first place. Still too many women are already living with HIV and AIDS, when they become pregnant. And too many are dying while giving birth. We thus collaborate closely with UNFPA and other partners to launch and support the Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa, the CARMMA campaign.
In education we have seen a significant increase in primary school enrolment rates, but the quality of education is still lacking behind in many countries. Overall enrolment in primary education in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 58 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2007. But the average masks significant disparities both between and within countries and, in several countries less than half of all children who start school complete a full circle of primary education. We continue working closely with UNESCO to improve learning conditions at schools. And we are particularly grateful to Japan for its support in this area.
We agree strongly with the report of the Secretary General that without additional efforts, many countries will miss out on several of the Millennium Development Goals. UNICEF believes that the TICAD process initiated by the Japanese Government, and the Yokohama Action Plan “Towards a vibrant Africa are playing an important role in contributing to development in critical areas in Africa.
We are indeed at a crossroads. Governments in Africa have started to do more to make progress towards achieving the MDGs, but they need to do even more again. But, in spite of the global economic situation, the continued and indeed increased support of the international community will be critical. We count on Japan to continue to make its major contribution through further investing in the TICAD process and continuing to support the Yokohama Action Plan. Human security cannot be achieved without fulfilling children's rights and placing children at the center of peace and development.
UNICEF is, as always, committed to working together with you to build an Africa fit for Children.
Thank you for your attention.