ANALANJIROFO, Madagascar, 28 July 2008 – Ann M. Veneman, on the first-ever visit by a UNICEF Executive Director to Madagascar, spent Sunday in Analanjirofo, the region hardest hit by Cyclone Ivan earlier this year.
Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is prone to frequent cyclones and tropical storms. Cyclone Ivan was one of the biggest to hit the island, striking in February 2008 with winds of up to 190 kilometres per hour.
In the four districts that bore the brunt of the storm, the high winds and subsequent flooding, more than 160,000 people were affected. Some 364 schools and over 40 health centres were damaged or destroyed, with a serious impact on the health and well-being of children in the area.
Focus on malnutrition
Accompanied by senior government officials, Veneman visited the region to assess reconstruction efforts.
“I am pleased to see the impressive progress made in re-establishing basic health and education services,” she said. “This is due to the engagement among the government, local communities and international organizations working together to improve conditions for children and their families.”
Veneman visited a local health centre that offers basic services, including the treatment of malnutrition. A key priority is to help malnourished children and those who may be at increased nutritional risk due to the cyclone.
The health centre offers ‘Plumpy’nut’, a ready-to-use therapeutic food for treating severely malnourished children. The high-protein, high-energy, peanut-based paste typically comes in foil wrappers or small plastic tubs and has a two-year shelf life when unopened. Plumpy’nut requires no preparation or special supervision, so an untrained adult – such as a parent – can deliver it to an undernourished child at home.
Achieving broader goals
Veneman also visited a school in the region that was partly destroyed by Cyclone Ivan. UNICEF is providing temporary classrooms and essential school materials at the school site.
Later, Veneman met with the President of the Republic of Madagascar, H.E. Marc Ravalomanana, the Prime Minister and several ministers to discuss progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
A key objective of the President and his government is to improve access to safe water and sanitation.
UNICEF works on the ground in more than 150 developing and transitional countries to help children survive and thrive. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS.
About the UNICEF Executive Director:
Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.
At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of nearly 10,000 staff and annual total resources of about $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled to more than 40 countries, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.