Uganda, 4 April 2012: Executive Director becomes U-reporter #105,549 and sees innovations in action
KAMPALA, Uganda, 4 April 2012 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake became the 105,549th U-reporter during a trip to Kampala this week, drawing attention to this grassroots innovation on a visit that culminated in a high-level call to action to end child under-nutrition.
Surrounded by smiling and excited youth, including girls from the Girls’ Education Movement, and young Boy and Girl Scouts, Mr. Lake signed up for U-report by texting “join” to 8500 using a mobile phone.
Developed and supported by UNICEF Uganda, the system has already become a game-changing innovation by giving young Ugandans a say in the issues that matter most to them.
U-reporters respond by free text message to polls on important topics such as reducing violence against children. Poll results are then shared with members of parliament, media, and online through the website www.ureport.ug, amplifying the voices of youth to the highest levels.
“This is not simply about youth being able to communicate with each other,” Mr. Lake said of the innovation. “This is about their becoming a virtual community that really is changing communities and lives all around Uganda.”
Another game-changing innovation Mr. Lake visited was the Digital Drum, the rugged solar-powered computer kiosk chosen by Time Magazine as one of its Best Inventions of 2011.
At a local youth centre in Kampala, Mr. Lake watched young people use the kiosk to access information and services.
“Kids who would otherwise have no idea about how to use a computer are getting their first experiences on it, for free,” Mr. Lake said of the Digital Drum. “And that can change their lives.”
Lake also toured the innovative new Mobile Vital Registration System(MobileVRS) project that uses mobile phone technology to instantly register the births of newborns and issues a birth certificate.
Without birth registration, children’s existence, age, and citizenship can be called into question, exposing them to painful realities like child marriage and being unfairly treated as an adult when in conflict with the law.
UNICEF and partners aim to use MobileVRS to boost the registration in Uganda of under-five children from the current low rate of 30 percent to over 80 percent nationwide by 2014.
Mr. Lake’s Uganda trip culminated in a call to action to members of parliaments from across the globe to help combat child under-nutrition, with a special focus on stunting.
The parliamentarians, who were gathered in Kampala for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union, listened to Mr. Lake describe how stunted children can never reach their full cognitive capacity, and will never be able to learn as much nor earn as much throughout life.
“What a terrible tragedy for the 180 million children, under five years of age, who are stunted around the developing world today,” Mr. Lake said. “If these children were concentrated in one region, it would be seen as the emergency it is.”
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