Statement on UNICEF's 60th anniversary
by Joanna Van Gerpen, UNICEF's Representative in Sri Lanka
This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of UNICEF- the United Nations Children’s fund. For over three decades, UNICEF has been dedicated to meeting the very real challenges faced by Sri Lanka’s children.
UNICEF takes this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to support efforts to make sure that every Sri Lankan child gets a good start in life, and we call on all Sri Lankans to unite for children.
Much has been accomplished over the years – in 1989 Sri Lanka achieved universal child immunization. Infant mortality has been greatly reduced, and almost all girls and boys have a chance to go to school. UNICEF is honoured to have been a partner to the Government of Sri Lanka over the years in these achievements. But much more needs to be done. UNICEF will continue to work with the Government, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society networks and the private sector throughout Sri Lanka to improve the lives of children.
UNICEF works to improve education for children. We are helping to re-build 35 schools following the tsunami. We support catch-up education programmes for children who have been pushed out of the mainstream by poverty or displacement.
We look out for children who are affected by conflict, and do our utmost to make sure children are not exploited or exposed to danger. We support efforts to prevent child abuse and child sex tourism and the establishment of Children and Women’s desks at police stations. We work with adolescents, raising awareness of the dangers of HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, substance abuse and unwanted pregnancies
UNICEF works hard to ensure that every family has access to good health-care. We are constructing 24 health centres, as well as helping renovate and equip more than 40 hospitals around the country. We support the government nationwide to improve maternal nutrition and to reduce the number of low weight babies. We help train health-workers, and expectant mothers are given nutrition counselling as well as food supplements.
UNICEF is working with the government and our other partners to improve Sri Lanka’s water supply and sanitation around the country. We are currently helping to rehabilitate major water supply schemes in Mullaitivu, Thirrukkovi and Tangalle. We are also providing sanitation facilities for many of the country’s displaced people.
Children have a right to protection, love and support. We hope that this sixtieth anniversary will be a chance for everyone to think about children – and to speak up about their right to live and thrive in a peaceful and secure country.