|© UNICEF video|
|UNICEF Executive Board President Andrei Dapkiunas talks to young children during his five-day official visit to the Central African Republic.|
By Sabine Dolan
NEW YORK, USA, 10 March 2006 – The President of UNICEF’s Executive Board, Andrei Dapkiunas, has just completed a five-day visit to the Central African Republic to raise awareness of children’s urgent needs after years of political turmoil.
During his stay, Mr. Dapkiunas met with the President of the Central African Republic, François Bozizé. Together, they highlighted the need for additional international assistance to national and local authorities, as well as non-governmental organizations and communities, to support child survival, protection and development.
“Knowing that this country is not on the march to meeting the Millennium Development Goals but is actually struggling to stop the downfall of social indicators,” said Mr. Dapkiunas, “there is a strong need for the international community to address with greater attention the situation in the Central African Republic.”
Poverty and conflict
In fact, the Central African Republic has some of the world’s worst social indicators, with an estimated 67 per cent of the population living on less than $1 a day.
The country’s destitute condition has been exacerbated by a decade of internal conflict. In recent years, mortality rates have steadily increased while life expectancy has declined. Widespread poverty has hindered access to social services, especially for women and children.
Basic health indicators such as child and maternal mortality, malnutrition rates and HIV/AIDS prevalence have all worsened markedly in recent years. In the Central African Republic today:
|© UNICEF video|
|Executive Board President Andrei Dapkiunas meets with the President of the Central African Republic, François Bozizé.|
Effective, low-cost measures
Besides meetings with government officials in the capital, Bangui, Mr. Dapkiunas’s itinerary included field visits to several local communities and UNICEF-assisted NGO projects focusing on the protection of orphans and other vulnerable children, and the prevention of parent-to-child transmission of HIV.
He also observed UNICEF’s work on integrated early childhood development, which ensures that children get the best start in life through appropriate child and maternal health, nutrition, water and sanitation, hygiene and recreation opportunities.
After seeing programmes at work in the villages of Boda, Bombeti, Bomandoro and Cotonaf, Mr. Dapkiunas said they reinforced the importance of supporting simple interventions that are low-cost, effective and long-lasting.
At the close of his visit, Mr. Dapkiunas said he was impressed by the productive rapport between UNICEF’s country office and the Government of the Central African Republic – and by the will of the people to improve their situation. That determination was reflected in his talk with President Bozizé, he noted.
“I briefed the President, I shared impressions of the visit,” said Mr. Dapkiunas. “We talked about some practical steps on how perceptions of the country can be improved, positive steps in addressing the rights of children.” He added that he hoped his trip would help generate much-needed international aid in support of efforts to improve children’s lives.
Tim Ledwith contributed to this story.