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The 2006 elections in this multi-island nation saw the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in the country’s history. The promise of political stability has encouraged international donors to pledge new investments in education and other development projects benefiting children. Poverty is widespread and much of the population makes a living from subsistence farming.
Issues facing children in Comoros
- Some 25 per cent of all children under age five are underweight and 44 per cent suffer from stunting.
- Children often contract severe diarrhoeal diseases from unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation. Repeated eruptions of Grand Comore Island’s Mount Karthala have polluted the islands’ rainwater-gathering cisterns with ash.
- Gaps in routine immunization coverage led to an outbreak of measles in 2005.
- Only 60 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls are enrolled in primary school (net), and the gender gap widens in secondary school.
- Nearly three quarters of primary schools lack latrines or drinking water. Teachers’ strikes have resulted from non-payment of salaries.
Activities and results for children
- UNICEF support has strengthened the routine immunization programme, adding vitamin A supplementation and deworming treatments. In response to the recent measles outbreak, a special campaign vaccinated more than 110,000 children.
- Twenty-seven Community-Based Nutrition Sites care for children suffering from severe malnutrition.
- Each of the country’s four islands now has a medical facility that specializes in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. These clinics have been supplied with equipment, HIV test kits and antiretroviral drugs.
- A national movement for girls’ education has been launched. Plans are under way to equip schools with drinking water and separate latrines for boys and girls.
- The government’s adoption of the Education For All programme and suspension of some school fees have led to a spike in school enrolment.
- UNICEF has provided classroom furniture, teacher training and learning materials to launch 12 new pre-schools. This successful pilot project can be replicated on a wider scale, expanding access to early childhood education.
- Two new ‘Cellule d’Ecoute’ centres provide legal and psychosocial support to children who have suffered violence and abuse.
- Comoros recently adopted a new Family Code that raises the legal age for marriage.
- After two volcanic eruptions struck the island of Grand Comoro in 2005, UNICEF and its partners quickly provided drinking water to thousands of affected families. Following the emergency, UNICEF worked with more than 100 villages on Grand Comoro to cover 1,500 cisterns, protecting them from contamination by future eruptions.
- In 2006, a massive awareness and advocacy campaign was carried out to teach Comorians about good hygiene and sanitation practices, including protection of water resources.