|© UNICEF Kenya/2009/Sittoni|
|UNICEF Executive Board President H.E. Oumar Daou, Permanent Representative of Mali to the UN, congratulates Halima Osman on the birth of her son at the Garissa Provincial General Hospital in Kenya's North Eastern Province.|
By Pamella Sittoni
NAIROBI, Kenya, 13 March 2009 – The members of the Bureau of the UNICEF Executive Board have concluded a weeklong field visit to Kenya, where they observed huge disparities in education and health care in the country.
The delegation, composed of the Executive Board's top officers, met with the Education Minister, Professor Sam Ongeri, other senior government officials and the UNICEF Kenya staff, led by Representative Olivia Yambi. They also held meetings with UNICEF Regional Director Per Engebak, members of the United Nations country team in Kenya, donors, private-sector partners and representatives of local non-governmental organizations.
Executive Board President H.E. Oumar Daou, Permanent Representative of Mali to the UN, commended the Government of Kenya for its "strong commitment to ensuring education for all" through the introduction of free primary education in 2003.
However, he urged the Ministry of Education to continue to address disparities in access to schooling and quality of education, which were much in evidence when the delegation travelled from Nairobi to the semi-arid North Eastern Province, 300 km from the capital.
At Ayany Primary School in Kibera – a densely populated neighbourhood in Nairobi with a population of over 800,000 – the team saw several interventions supported by UNICEF.
|© UNICEF Kenya/2009/Otieno|
|Executive Board members are led by a community worker into Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, during a ten-day field visit.|
Ayany is one of the primary schools where UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have piloted the Child Friendly School concept. The teachers are trained to make the classroom and learning environment stimulating for children.
Other child-friendly criteria have been met at Ayany with UNICEF's support: Wall charts and murals are abundant; students actively participate in learning through different class activities; and there are separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls.
Some 25 schools in poor neighbourhoods Throughout Nairobi have had their bathroom blocks rehabilitated by UNICEF through a partnership with Barclays Bank and the Nakumatt supermarket chain.
Reaching remote areas
In sharp contrast to the Ayany facility was the school the Executive Board members visited in the remote, semi-arid Garissa district in North Eastern Province. The school that serves Sankuri, a community of about 8,000 residents there, still lacks furniture and learning materials. The Child Friendly School concept is yet to roll out on a national scale and has not yet reached some of the schools in remote areas.
Executive Board members did see progress in Sankuri, in the form of a UNICEF-supported project providing safe drinking water to households and improving hygiene and sanitation in the community dispensary and schools.
UNICEF and the Government of Kenya are implementing a $70 million water programme that will ensure an additional 1.3 million Kenyans get access to safe water. The Dutch Government has provided $40 million for this programme, while the remainder has been contributed by local communities, government ministries and UNICEF.
Cooperation will continue
The delegation saw another innovative intervention at Garissa Provincial General Hospital, where a voucher system for free obstetrical services is being used to encourage women to deliver their babies at health facilities. The incentive has raised the percentage of women seeking skilled deliveries in the province from 8 per cent to 25 per cent.
UNICEF also supports a local maternity shelter where expectant mothers who live far from the hospital can stay until their delivery date.
The President of the Executive Board, Mr. Dao, said the delegation was happy to observe that UNICEF Kenya had very high credibility in Kenya and a strong partnership with the government. He assured the government and all partners that this cooperation would continue – and called on them to work together to ensure that investment in social sectors, which is achieving concrete results for children, will not be affected by the global financial crisis.
Mr. Daou was accompanied by Executive Board Vice-Presidents H.E. Ismat Jahan, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN; H.E. Léo Mérorès, Permanent Representative of Haiti to the UN; H.E. Simona Miculescu, Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN; and Takeshi Osuga, Minister, Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN. Also in the delegation were Kirsi Madi, Secretary of the Executive Board, and El Hadji Traore, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Mali to the UN.