At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

UNICEF Executive Director concludes landmark Syria visit

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© UNICEF Syria/2009/Malkawi
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman with a group of adolescents and volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent/UNICEF centre in Jaramana, located in the suburbs of Damascus, during her visit to Syria from 25 to 29 June 2009.

DAMASCUS, Syrian Arab Republic, 30 June 2009 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman concluded a landmark tour of Syria by commending UNICEF’s Syrian partners for their accomplishments benefiting children and young people. 

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“Syria is recognizing the critical importance of investing in children and adolescents,” said Veneman. “Yet challenges remain, including ensuring quality education, providing opportunities for youth and addressing the impact of drought.”

On her 25-29 June visit – the first ever to the Syrian Arab Republic by a UNICEF Executive Director – Veneman toured a number of projects supported by UNICEF and its partners, gaining an insight into how these challenges are being met.

Coping with transitions
Stressing the importance of preventive integrated health care for Syrian and refugee families and their children, Veneman visited a thriving public health centre in the Hussainya camp for Iraqi refugees.

The centre boasts a team of female volunteers working alongside the staff of a local non-governmental organization and health-care professionals. It is seen as a model to be replicated across the country – including at a planned centre in the North Eastern Governorates, where drought and poverty are at their most extreme in Syria.

The Hussainya centre also hosts regular and boisterous mothers’ meetings that serve as a conduit for important health and child-care education. Veneman talked to the mothers and noted that their support network helps these women cope more effectively with transitions in their lives.

Support for young entrepreneurs
Issues affecting adolescents informed much of Veneman’s visit to Syria. For example, she was quickly immersed in the youthful exuberance of a debate among young Iraqi refugees during a stop at an innovative Adolescent-Friendly Space in Jaramana, located in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

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© Presidential Palace
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman meeting the President of Syria, Dr. Bashar Al Assad, during her visit to Syria.

Impressed by Syria’s evident economic growth, the UNICEF Executive Director was keen to stress that young people must not be left behind by the development process. Veneman met representatives from NGOs that support youth entrepreneurs, and saw two entrepreneurial projects – a thriving beauty salon and a mini-food market – supported by microfinancing loans in underserved areas.

Re-invigorated by the inspiring children, women and adolescents Veneman met over the last few days, UNICEF will continue to champion the educational, health care and protection needs of all of Syria’s young people.


 

 

Video

29 June 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Amy Bennett reports on Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s landmark trip to Syria.
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Global Humanitarian Forum

Drought was one of the issues addressed during Ann M. Veneman's visit to Syria. At the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva just prior to the trip, she joined a panel discussion on climate change, which is increasingly cited as a cause of drought and severe weather.

Watch the panel entitled 'Humanitarian Actors'.
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