Progress through partnership
By Wivina Belmonte
UNICEF Representative, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, 15 September 2012
On behalf of UNICEF Malaysia, please allow me to thank the organisers of the Kiwanis Malaysia District Convention 2012 for inviting me to be a part of your special gathering.
Having recently arrived in Malaysia, it is an honour to be here today – this is only my 2nd keynote address since my arrival, and it gives me particular pleasure to be joining you – Kiwanians.
Before taking up my post, I spent three years at UNICEF's headquarters in New York, where I got to know first-hand the long and productive history of our global partnership.
Together, Kiwanis and UNICEF have taken on some of the biggest threats to children and achieved amazing results, most notably during our campaign to combat iodine deficiency, the single greatest cause of preventable mental disorders.
The campaign began in 1994, and by 2010, about 70 per cent of people in the developing world had access to iodized salt. Think about that achievement for a moment – from less than 20 per cent of people with access to iodized salt in 1990, to nearly 70 per cent in 2010. All that, in less than a generation.
Given that history – and those results for children – we were extremely enthusiastic when Kiwanis, one of the foremost global service groups dedicated to helping children, chose to partner with UNICEF once more for its second worldwide service project: the elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus.
Since its launch two years ago, this initiative, known as The Eliminate Project, has brought together Kiwanis' extensive reach among communities and leaders, and UNICEF's experience and extensive supply chain, with an ambitious vision – to make maternal and neonatal tetanus a thing of the past.
Kiwanis has pledged to raise US$110 million by 2015, to fill the funding gap necessary to provide an estimated 387 million doses of the tetanus vaccine. It is the largest single pledge ever made for efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, and on behalf of UNICEF, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all Kiwanians for making this remarkable commitment.
It gives me great satisfaction to be able to report that there are already results we can be proud of.
At the start of The Eliminate Project, there were 40 countries in which this disease was a risk. In the last year, maternal and neonatal tetanus was eliminated in Ghana, Senegal, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau, putting us well on track to our goal of 2015 for a better, safer, healthier future for millions of children around the world.
And let me thank you for your part in this incredible effort.
Here in Malaysia, fundraising for The Eliminate Project is going strong, with close to US$300,000 in gifts and pledges raised to date – representing thousands upon thousands of lives.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge some of the other, life-saving work you've done for the world's children. In emergencies – when disaster struck in Haiti, Myanmar, China, Japan and Pakistan, your commitment, generosity and swift action helped us provide life-saving assistance to those in need.
And here at home, Kiwanis Malaysia is also doing some wonderful work in support of children and youth with disabilities – The Early Intervention Program at Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centres and the Job Training Centres for youth with disabilities are two tremendous examples of this. Not only do these programs directly benefit the children and youth involved in them, they also help change the overall conversation about disability. More and more, Malaysians are focusing on the capabilities and achievements of people with disabilities instead of their limitations.
Look at the Malaysian Paralympic Games medallists, Hasihin Sanawi and Muhamad Ziyad Zolkefli. They are national heroes, and rightly so. Seeing people with disabilities on the world stage, showing the full possibility of their talents, is an inspiration to all of us. And Kiwanis is playing a role in giving children with disabilities the tools they need to shine – living up to their potential and inspiring us, too.
I hope that going forward, Kiwanis and UNICEF will be able to work together on this in Malaysia so that every child, including children with disabilities, can enjoy the full extent of their rights.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we continue our wonderful partnership to improve the lives of children, in Malaysia and around the world, I would like, on behalf of UNICEF, to applaud Kiwanis Malaysia for its leadership, service and philanthropy. We look forward to even more achievements for children as Kiwanis approaches its centenary in 2015.
I wish you all much success in the upcoming 'Year of Participation' and a wonderful, productive meeting here.
For further information, please contact:
Indra Kumari Nadchatram,
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9157
+6012 292 6872
UNICEF Media, Malaysia
(+6.03) 2095 9154 ext. 2236
+6012 658 5160