Makati City, 14 February 2006. The Government of Australia has granted P901.85 million (US$17 million) to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to help improve the lives of children in the Philippines, particularly those in Southern Philippines.
“We are grateful to the Government of Australia for its continued support to the Philippines Child-Friendly Movement to assist the most vulnerable children of the Philippines,” said Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Country Representative in the Philippines, as he handed the Design Document to Australian Ambassador Tony Hely.
“UNICEF will use Australia’s contribution to help assisted areas catch up with the rest of the country in child well-being indicators. We will do this by continuing to support the Child-Friendly Movement, or the engagement of all sectors of society to address children’s issues and concerns.”
“Our main focus will be to reduce the disparities, which means we will be focusing the Australian government’s assistance on the poorest barangays while making sure that the development process is participatory, builds local capacity and ownerships for sustainability,” Dr. Alipui emphasized.
“By creating safe environments in which children can grow and prosper, Australia aims to foster stability, growth, and sustainable development in an area that suffers from a cycle of poverty, instability and conflict,” His Excellency Australian Ambassador Tony Hely, said.
Australia’s contribution will benefit eight provinces and one city in Mindanao, and one province in the Visayas, namely: Agusan Sur; Bukidnon; Magindanao; North Cotabato; Sarangani; Sultan Kudarat; Sulu; Zamboanga del Sur; Davao City; and, Northern Samar.
Children under 18 years old make up 43 per cent (36.7 million) of the population in these areas
According to UNICEF, children in these areas tend to lag behind children in the rest of the country in terms of health, nutrition, education and protection:
- While the national infant mortality rate is 27 per 1,000 live births in 2003, it is much higher in the assisted areas, especially Northern Samar (79); Sultan Kudarat (55); Bukidnon (53); and, North Cotabato (51).
- All areas for Australian assistance have equal or higher levels of underweight children compared to the national average. Except for Davao City and the province of Agusan del Sur, all other focus areas have malnutrition rates higher than 30 per cent
- At least 15 per cent of households in the assisted areas do not have sanitary toilets and access to safe drinking water. The worst-off areas are Sulu and Maguindanao, where access rates to sanitary toilets and safe drinking water are below 50 per cent.
- These areas are faring worse in education compared to national averages. Primary school enrolment is below 90 per cent in four of the assisted provinces while cohort survival rates are below 70 per cent in all assisted areas except Davao City. Maguindanao has the highest primary school drop out rate (23 per cent), followed by North Cotabato (14.3 per cent) and Agusan del Sur (13.6 per cent).
- Reports also indicate that massive trafficking is taking place in the Southern Philippines, with many Filipino children being trafficked to the island of Sabah, Malaysia.
- Sporadic armed conflict affects children in some of the assisted areas, especially in North Cotabato and Maguindanao. Combatants reportedly recruit children. Between 2000 and 2003, an estimated 300,000 children were displaced by armed conflict in Mindanao alone.
- High-risk behaviours for HIV/AIDS are prevalent in the assisted areas. For example, rapid assessments in Mindanao identified widespread availability of illegal drugs and sex workers – some of them children – as high-risk factors. Maguindanao recorded a “high incidence” of child exploitation, and an unusually low high school enrolment rate. In Davao City, male and female teenagers known as “buntogs” roam the streets, get into gang wars, engage in multiple-partner sex activities with each other, and venture into commercial sex.
From 1999 to 2004, the Australian government provided P451 million (US$8.5 million) to UNICEF for children’s programmes in the Philippines. This assistance has resulted in significant improvements in children’s health, education, and protection.
“We assure the Government of Australia that its assistance in the next five years will make an even more critical difference in improving and protecting young lives in the Philippines,” Dr Alipui said.
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For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:
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UNICEF Manila, 901 0173 or 0917 858 9447, email@example.com