14 April 2007. Children in Mindanao communities who have experienced the worst ravages of conflict will soon be reached with vital health and nutrition services as part of a new initiative called “Days of Peace.”
Initiated by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Days of Peace Campaign will expand and accelerate the semi-annual Department of Health Garantisadong Pambata (“guarantee for children”) outreach teams by allowing safe passage to areas not normally accessible due to armed conflict. The team delivers essential services like immunizations, micronutrient supplementation, de-worming medicine, breastfeeding counseling.
An estimated 30,000 infants will receive immunizations against preventable diseases. More than 150,000 children will receive de-worming medicine and vitamin A supplements, while 16,500 pregnant mothers will receive tetanus toxoid vaccinations.
A “joint communiqué” between UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was signed to help uphold the rights of children and women in conflict-affected areas. It also provides for a possible wider alliance among different agencies and local government units involved in the rehabilitation of conflict-affected areas.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus G. Dureza said that the delivery of basic services to children and women in areas affected by armed conflict can create goodwill, reduce tension and will eventually pave the way towards reconciliation.
“As we continue our peace and development work in areas affected by conflict, it is vital that we give more focus on women and children.” Dureza added.
Secretary Dureza further stressed that the said campaign for women and children would fully help in achieving sustainable peace in the country.
Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the development arm of the MILF in cooperation with OPAPP, manages the ground preparations for the campaign. The campaign drive starts on April 16 reaching some 500 barangays and follow up campaigns will be organized in July and October.
“Experiences in other parts of the world demonstrate how these kinds of confidence building campaigns can push peace negotiations further toward their ultimate goal” UNICEF Country Representative Dr. Nicholas Alipui said.
Furthermore, the current negotiations between the government and the MILF will help bring essential services to children and women affected by the armed conflict.
The BDA, MILF, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Government, Armed Forces of the Philippines), Department of Health, International Monitoring Team, Joint Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, and local government units will be working together to launch the campaign.
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