day after Christmas 2004, waves as high as 25 feet crashed
upon sea-lying communities in South Asia. A few weeks before
that, two super typhoons hit and ravaged communities in the
Philippine province of Quezon. Entire communities have been
displaced, children orphaned or separated from their families,
homes and sources of livelihoods ruined. Everyone has lost
someone - a mother, a father, a husband or wife, a son or
daughter, a friend. Loss is a small word to contain all that
Asia, 5 million people are estimated to have been affected
by the tsunami. Of the 5 million, 1.5 million are children.
Typhoons Violeta, Winnie and Yoyong affected the lives of
345,000 children in the Philippines.
as mighty as the waters that raged through these communties,
equally mighty has been the outpouring of support from people
like you, our donors in the Philippines.
have been ringing off the hook from people who want to know
how they can help. Donations through our website have also
poured in. There have been donations of large amounts and
also of small but heartfelt sums. A P1 million cheque was
delivered to our office, the donor not even staying long enough
for a receipt. Children have come with their parents in tow
to personally hand in money saved over the holidays. Such
gallant acts warm our hearts each day. If only we could put
this warmth in a can and send it over to those children and
their families affected by the disasters, to comfort them
in their loss.
of rebuilding homes, communities and lives is daunting. It
will take much time. And much patience. And the risk is great
that after the initial rush to help, people will forget and
think that the disaster is over, that everything is back to
normal. The challenge is for us not to forget but to instead
commit to seeing these people through, for as long as it would
take for them to get back on their feet. And so we appeal
to you not to lose that burden for those who have suffered
much from these disasters.
from the risk of losing the zeal in helping these calamity-stricken
areas, there is also that risk of losing sight of the issues
that we face locally. These are the issues that UNICEF will
focus on this year, and which we hope you will also take on
as we do:
MOTHERHOOD AND CHILDBIRTH
Too many women are dying while they give birth. These deaths
can be prevented. We will help equip clinics with the proper
tools to make childbirths safe.
NUTRITION AND DISEASE PREVENTION
Too many children remain malnourished. We will make a noise
to promote exclusive breastfeeding. We will continue our nationwide
campaign on complete immunization against preventable diseases
and consumption of iodised salt.
TO QUALITY EDUCATION
98% of brain development occurs in the early years. But very
few children enjoy early learning and stimulation. We will
replicate innovative community and home-based "little
schools" to ensure that children get ready for formal
schooling and lifelong learning.
We want to address the growing concern of HIV/AIDS, early
marriages and pregnancy among our teenagers. We will pursue
effective means to educate and increase awareness on the dangers
associated with risky sexual behavior.
We are working hard to reduce the number of children who are
engaged in hazardous work. We are also asking our senators
to pass a law that will keep children out of adult jails.
is enormous, but even with small but measured, deliberate
and purposeful steps, together we will deliver on our obligations
to the children of this country.