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UNICEF Executive Board

Board session closes with focus on Gaza crisis and aspirations for 2009

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0086/Markisz
From left: UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, board President Oumar Daou, board Secretary Kirsi Madi and Deputy Executive Director Saad Houry listen to a presentation by Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag.

By Roshni Karwal

NEW YORK, USA, 6 February 2009 – The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, along with UNICEF’s aspirations to work efficiently in the challenging year ahead, topped the agenda on the third and final day of the Executive Board’s first regular session of 2009.

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Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag updated the board on relief operations in the wake of the recent Gaza conflict.

“The impact is quite significant,” said Kaag. “UNICEF will need to ensure three key areas: continued access to affected regions, unimpeded flow of humanitarian goods to really meet those in need and, finally, taking [emergency assistance] to scale.

“We have to be quick to scale up,” she warned. “In any crisis there is a window of opportunity, and we can’t afford to miss it.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0088/Markisz
UNICEF Regional Director Sigrid Kaag briefs the Executive Board on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on the final day of the board’s first regular session of 2009.

Road to recovery in Gaza

UNICEF is concentrating on education, water and sanitation, health, nutrition and psychosocial support for children affected by the violence in Gaza. The continuing relief and recovery effort is being carried out in cooperation with local authorities, non-governmental organizations and other UN agencies, Kaag told the board.

“The human impact of the crisis on children – on all children – has been very significant” she said. “They have witnessed immense violence, they have suffered loss, they have suffered injury.”

UNICEF is sending out psychosocial support teams to check on children’s emotional condition in house-to-house visits, Kaag explained. And getting children back to school is another an important factor in restoring normalcy.

“One key to our success will be community,” Kaag concluded, noting the importance of creating a safe and protective environment in classrooms and UNICEF-supported adolescent and family centres.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0084/Markisz
Executive Director Ann M. Veneman makes closing remarks to Executive Board members. Deputy Executive Directors Omar Abdi and Hilde F. Johnson are at left.

Maximizing available resources

In her closing remarks at today’s meeting, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman cited the disproportionate impact on children in any crisis situation – as demonstrated by Kaag’s presentation on Gaza.

Veneman thanked board members for their input over the past three days of planning and discussion. She pointed out that the global financial crisis makes 2009 a critical year in which UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies must work jointly and efficiently to maximize available resources.

To that end, Veneman lauded the board’s endorsement of several initiatives aimed at improving business practices and promoting an organizational culture of continuous improvement. These practices reflect UNICEF’s emphasis on transparency, accountability and good internal communication, she said.

The Executive Director also thanked the board for reaffirming UNICEF’s commitment to advancing gender equality in all of its work. An evaluation of progress on gender equality was included in the board’s deliberations this week.

Finally, Veneman paid tribute to UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa Per Engebak, who is retiring after 30 years of service to children and families in need.




6 February 2009:
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman delivers closing remarks at the Executive Board’s first regular session of 2009.
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Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag talks about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
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