UNICEF Executive Director reflects on visit to Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby, 20 June 2014 – Speaking at the conclusion of her visit to Papua New Guinea, Assistant General Secretary to the United Nations and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Yoka Brandt reiterated UNICEF’s commitment to promote the rights of all children in PNG.
“The country will soon be the sixth highest growing economy in the world, yet PNG is falling short on all the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the areas of education, nutrition, water and sanitation. The Government has made progress to move the agenda but we need to do more innovatively so that the benefits of economic growth and development are felt by all, especially those hardest to reach,” Ms. Brandt said.
She added that investments in the first 1000 days of a child’s life from conception up to two years was critical as this period is a critical window of opportunity to directly impact a child’s cognitive and nutritional health.
Highlighting malnutrition as a silent emergency in PNG where close to half the children have stunted growth, Ms. Brandt appealed for cross sectoral support to address the situation which not only limited children’s growth outcomes but also their future learning and income earning potential.
“Malnutrition cannot be addressed only by the health sector. All concerned sectors should allocate resources to their respective nutrition sector interventions. It is essential to put in place the necessary conditions to detect and treat severe malnutrition cases as quickly as possible,” Ms. Brandt emphasized.
Children who suffer from malnutrition are likely to die of treatable diseases like diarrhea and chest infections. A child’s physical growth and mental development can become permanently impaired and in severe cases, the child can die if malnutrition if not treated.
Ms. Brandt also launched the End Violence Against Children campaign with partners from the Government and civil society.
“This is an important goal, and one that we can, and must reach together. Violence against children – be it physical, emotional or sexual abuse – can impact a child’s ability to learn and socialize and can compromise their ability to become productive adults and citizens in the future,” Ms Brandt stated.
She appealed to all concerned to roll out this campaign to all provinces because launching the campaign was just a start and that it should not be limited to Port Moresby only.
Ms. Brandt further expressed UNICEF’s commitment to working with the Government to explore new and innovative means to help tell the story of children in the country and to use data for more responsive programming.
“Reliable and quality data, well analyzed are powerful tools for change, especially for children. Data not only provides a window to the real life situations of populations, it can reveal where progress is being made, where critical gaps remain and whether programme interventions are making a meaningful difference for millions of people.
She congratulated the media for playing an important role in advancing key areas by ‘talking out’ against violence; promoting positive parenting messages that highlight the importance of early nutrition, care and support during the first 1000 days of life; and by using data and evidence to tell accurate stories of children’s growth and development in PNG.
“Improving data is vital if we are to deliver results effectively and efficiently,” Ms. Brandt stated.
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