|© UNICEF DR Congo/2006/Nybo|
|A young boy at a centre for street children in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, tells his story to UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, WFP Executive Director James Morris and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.|
By Rachel Bonham Carter
NEW YORK, 27 February 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has taken a firsthand look at programmes for children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including meeting with street children at a feeding programme in Kinshasa. Ms Veneman is in Africa for a joint visit to the Great Lakes region with the Executive Director of the World Food Programme James Morris and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
The purpose of the visit – the first joint mission undertaken by the three heads of the United Nations’ largest humanitarian agencies – is to review their common operations in DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The mission also seeks to draw attention to the suffering of millions of refugees and others forced to flee their homes, and to emphasize the need for collaborative work in this area of Africa.
The programmes of all three agencies in the Great Lakes region are under-funded. The agency heads are urging the international community to respond actively to the plight of people forced to flee their homes by attacks during the last six years of conflict in eastern DR Congo and those who have chosen to return home to Rwanda and Burundi after years in exile.
The agency heads today met with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila. In a joint statement issued before their departure from DR Congo, they said: “The Great Lakes is at a crossroads in 2006 with national elections in DR Congo due before the end of June, following elections in Burundi in August last year. But for too many ordinary people, political progress must now be matched by substantial humanitarian assistance.”
In addition to highlighting the needs of vulnerable groups, the joint mission seeks ways of improving the three agencies’ response by bridging the gap between emergency relief and long-term development work.
Education is being highlighted as an avenue for progress for DR Congo, Rwanda and Burundi, to help move forward from conflict and poverty to an understanding of the needs of the most vulnerable, and to further the agencies’ commitment to end child hunger.
During the rest of the five-day trip, which began on 25 February, Ms. Veneman, Mr. Morris and Mr. Guterres will meet the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, representatives of donor countries and organizations, and other officials of UN agencies and partner non-governmental organizations, and will visit projects in the region.
Ms. Veneman and Mr. Morris, who are on their second joint mission, will then go to Kenya while Mr. Guterres travels on to Tanzania.