“Egypt is well on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” said Veneman. “These include universal primary education, and reducing child and maternal mortality.” She noted that the country’s current strong rate of economic growth should assist in reaching other MDG targets as well.
The need to provide protection to more vulnerable children – including those living on the streets and girls subjected to female genital cutting -- were high on the agenda of the UNICEF Executive Director’s meetings with senior government officials.
In discussions with the First Lady of Egypt, Mrs Suzanne Mubarak, the prime minister, Mr Ahmed Nazif, as well as other interlocutors (among them the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Minister of International Cooperation, Fayza Aboulnaga, and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr. Amr Moussa), Veneman underlined UNICEF’s commitment to supporting efforts to assist children most at risk of violence and abuse.
Veneman met a group of such youngsters during a visit to a centre for street children run by the NGO Caritas in Giza governorate, on the outskirts of Cairo. She was shown literacy classes, craftwork and other activities organized for the boys and girls who come to the centre daily.
“It’s encouraging to see the work being done to help vulnerable children,” said Veneman. “Where possible these children need to be reintegrated with their families and get back into school.”
In 2003, under the leadership of Egypt’s first lady, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood launched a national strategy to protect and rehabilitate street children. Since then, UNICEF has worked extensively with partners in government and non-governmental organizations dealing with Egypt’s most vulnerable children.
Veneman took the opportunity of an audience with the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Tantawi, to discuss the issue of female genital cutting.
Last November, Al Azhar hosted a conference “Ending Violence Against the Women’s Body” which conveyed the message that the “continuation of FGC is based on socio-cultural beliefs and not on Islamic religious grounds”.
Veneman noted that Egypt was taking important steps to ensure that a future generation of girls would not be subjected to the harmful practice of FGC.
UNICEF is on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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