|© UNICEF Senegal/2004/ Delvigne-Jean|
|Delegates at the Pan-African Forum in Senegal, Dakar|
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By Thierry Delvigne-Jean
DAKAR, Senegal, 18 October 2004 – More than two hundred community and religious leaders from across Africa discussed the perils threatening the survival of Africa’s children, at the Pan-African Forum which opened here today.
Christian, Muslim and traditional leaders are attending this three-day event to explore ways in which they can use their influence to help avert child deaths in Africa by promoting immunization. African media representatives are also present.
In his opening statement, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal said: “No one can doubt that the survival of children in Africa is in peril. This is partly due to high levels of poverty, a lack of essential services, inadequate social and health infrastructures, and insufficient resources.”
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told delegates that they play a crucial role in promoting and disseminating the truth about life-saving health care for children.
“We have paid insufficient attention to the community of religious and traditional leaders whose influence – at family and community levels – can ensure that children not only survive, but thrive.”
Bellamy made it clear that no single organization can take on this challenge alone.
“We believe that without the engagement of people of direct and immediate community influence – leaders such as yourselves – even the best health programmes will not reach all the children who need them,” she said.