6 February 2008 - keynote speech at joint stategy meeting between Government of National Unity and Government of Southern Sudan
Mr. Minister of Regional Cooperation, Mr. Under-Secretary of the Ministry of International Cooperation, distinguished representatives of the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan, colleagues from UNICEF Sudan, ladies and gentlemen.
The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement three years ago provided Sudan with a unique opportunity to make progress for children and get Sudan back on track towards achievement of the Millenium Development Goals. The progress for children that has been led by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan since 2005 is an indication that the opportunity is being embraced by all. We are so focused on the work ahead that we sometimes forget what has remarkably been done.
Estimates for under-5 mortality have fallen from 156 deaths per 1,000 live births prior to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to 112 according to the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey. We now have health interventions that can reach every child in Sudan: More than 12.9 million children have been protected against measles throughout Sudan, while last year alone some 9 million children were immunized against polio.
Access to clean water has started to increase, from a pre-Comprehensive Peace Agreement estimate of 52.3 per cent to 56.1 per cent which means that an additional 1.5 million people have access to potable water.
Primary school enrolment in Southern Sudan has increased from an estimated 343,000 in 2004 to an estimated 1.2 million today. We have more children in schools today in Darfur than ever before.
At the same time, critical policy and legislative steps have been taken to strengthen child rights – including the finalization of a Child Act here in Southern Sudan, the revision of the Armed Forces Act in the north of Sudan that protects children from recruitment, and positive steps towards ending stigmatization and discrimination towards people living with HIV and AIDS. There is great scope to build on these developments, through creating policy frameworks that draw on global experience and demonstrate best practice, so that legislation does not remain on paper but is strengthened with the necessary structures and systems to be fully implemented at every level.
Lying behind these achievements is a clear commitment by Sudan’s leaders to put children at the very heart of their agenda, a commitment that is demonstrated by the presence of such senior figures from the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan today.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement has provided the framework through which we have, together, been able to deliver these results. That framework has enabled government to create development strategies, that in turn have guided the creation of the UN Development Assistance Framework for the next four years, and from all of which government and UNICEF have taken their lead in the development of the new Country Programme for 2009-2012. For the first time since the CPA, we are taking a multi-year perspective and developing a vision for children.
The challenge today, ladies and gentlemen, is to ensure that we now build upon the achievements made, and further our collective sense of responsibility towards shaping a vision for and with Sudan’s children, that enshrines their right to survival, development and protection. And we must embrace this new opportunity now, urgently, in order to capitalize upon the work undertaken so far.
We must ensure that we have a cohesive and complementary programmatic structure that maximizes the impact of our activities. We must be bold in advancing innovative approaches that reach out to every child, in every community.
I would like to take a moment to outline just some of those approaches.
If we are to address the threats to child survival, then we must ensure that primary health care services extend out to every family in Sudan, above all reaching those currently under-served. The Sudan Accelerated Child Survival Initiative, which links basic health, nutrition and sanitation interventions integrated at community level with policy changes and increased investment to scale up existing programmes – such as the Expanded Programme on Immunization – will have a significant impact on reducing child mortality, while rapidly increasing local capacity, skills and potential amongst health care providers. Imagine if we can reach every child in Sudan with eight simple health interventions by the end of this calendar year: vaccination against polio, vaccination against measles, access to vitamin A tablets, access to deworming medicine, provision of an insecticide-treated bed nets, information about the important of breastfeeding, hygiene information about handwashing, and use of iodised salt and effective screening and referral of malnutrition cases, We estimate, that through these simple initiatives, we can save the lives of 60,000 children under the age of five.
We must also ensure that those lives saved have the potential to grow and develop within their communities. Integrated community-based recovery and development programmes, focused on specific geographical areas where the needs are most critical, will provide the necessary structures for communities – and especially their children – to gain improved access to education, to health care, to clean water and sanitation, and to new sources of income. Achieving this will require effective partnerships between government, the international community, non-governmental organizations, civil society and most importantly, communities themselves.
Your Excellencies, we are entering a period of transition in Sudan where we must put in place the necessary structures and capacity to bolster community development and establish concrete peace dividends. At the upcoming Sudan Consortium, there will be a discussion of national programmes that can bolster peace and development. Imagine an initiative that focuses on war affected communities north and south and ensures integrated community based recovery and development through the integrated establishment of water and sanitation, health, education and livelihood services and the empowerment of communities supported by government.
The protection of children must begin with their leaders – whether at national, state or village level. Innnovative programmes such as the Child and Family Protection Units established in a number of states that provide safety and systematic support for women and children affected by crime, and the new Alternative Family Care programme that has both enabled children deprived of parental care to be placed with alternate families, provide the type of statutory care and protection for children vital to building a society where children’s rights are fully safeguarded. We must work together to expand and develop these and other protective mechanisms within the fibre of Sudanese society.
All these opportunities, many of which we will discuss in more detail today, cannot develop in a vacuum. Advancement for children in Sudan cannot only take place in the seats of government, or in UN offices. There must be effective decentralization of programme delivery and resources to ensure that such developments are implemented at the local level, with the necessary geo-targeting to tackle priorities at grassroots level, to reduce disparities. Our efforts must be based on the principles of equity and non-discrimination, and address the most vulnerable of Sudanese people – the internally displaced, refugees, returnees, children without primary care-givers, children involved with armed groups, those affected by gender-based discrimination and persons living in under-served areas. We must also bridge the gap between the opportunities we have identified, and the resources needed to turn them into realities. This can be further emphasized through leadership from government in terms of increased social budgeting.
Your Excellencies, we have the tools to ensure adequate and effective targeting. The 2005 Joint Assessment Mission and the 2006 Sudan Household Health Survey – both further examples of the leadership and commitment shown by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan – have given a valuable insight to the condition of women and children across Sudan, and will enable us to plan, measure and evaluate our programmes effectively. We must keep returning to these evidence-based tools to chart our progress.
We must also recognize the imbalance that is created by the current situation in Darfur. For four years, the humanitarian community has ensured the survival of more than 4 million conflict-affected people in the three states of Darfur. We have seen mortality rates held below emergency thresholds, increased access to water and sanitation to more than 75 per cent of the affected populace, and delivery of health care for some 3 million people in the last year alone. But the most recent Food Security and Nutrition Assessment of conflict-affected populations, undertaken in 2007 by the government and the UN, has shown an increase again in child malnutrition, that 75 per cent of the population remains food insecure, and that insecurity remains the main obstacle to activities such as crop and livestock production.
Given the ongoing humanitarian needs in Darfur, there is a real risk that international attention and resources will not span out to reach other parts of Sudan, where development indicators are often worse than in those three states. The overhang of Darfur continues to affect the development of Sudan as a whole and it is more urgent than ever to find a just solution to the conflict.
Your Excellencies, these are some of the issues that we must be take into account today, as we look ahead to continued collaboration for children. In the space of three short years, we have seen tangible peace dividends delivered for many in Sudan – if we are to move closer towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals, and deliver a promising vision for children, then we must renew our shared sense of responsibility and commit ourselves to action. In the fullness of time, I am confident that future generations will look back on this period of opportunity and affirm that we did not lose sight of the prize.