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UNICEF Executive Board

Lives improved, lives saved: UNICEF Executive Board reflects on progress made and challenges ahead

© UNICEF video

 

 

NEW YORK, United States of America, 14 June 2017 – The year 2016 was one of tremendous challenges. More than 125 million people needed humanitarian assistance as a result of conflict, displacement, natural disasters and profound vulnerability.

The Zika virus threatened the well-being of women and children in 75 countries, and El Niño intensified drought in dozens of countries already suffering high levels of malnutrition and food insecurity.

Armed conflict continued in such countries as Iraq, South Sudan and the Syrian Arab Republic, and the global migration crisis reached proportions not seen since the Second World War.

Recognizing the dire situation faced by children around the world, H. E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, President of the UNICEF Executive Board (and Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations), underscored the importance of UNICEF’s work as he opened the 2017 Annual Session of the UNICEF Executive Board. With reference to children in specific situations of vulnerability, children with disabilities and children affected by armed conflict, Ambassador Webson said “it is agencies like UNICEF that work to help us fight these challenges, to right those wrongs for children.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/UN016640/Holt
A child receives a polio vaccine from a UNICEF volunteer vaccinator at an emergency food distribution site set up as part of a Rapid Response Mission run by UNICEF and the World Food Programme in South Sudan in March 2016. Global polio cases have been reduced by 99 per cent since 1988.

Tackling inequities

Despite much progress for children in the past two decades, stark disparities persist. For example, children in sub-Saharan Africa are 12 times more likely than those in high-income countries to die before the age of five. Within countries, too, glaring inequities exist, with children from the poorest households more than twice as likely to be stunted and far less likely to complete school.

“Such disparities are not only unfair – a violation of fundamental rights – they’re deadly,” explained UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in his address. “Children growing up in poverty are nearly twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthdays as children growing up in wealthier households. A heartbreaking injustice.” 

The UNICEF 2010 Narrowing the Gaps study confirmed the importance of pursuing an equity strategy – putting the most disadvantaged at the heart of our work. It showed that doing so was the most practical and cost-effective way to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Since then, this pro-equity approach has translated into real results for children – lives improved and lives saved. Seven years on, “we can say with still-greater confidence that ‘equity is right in both principle and practice,’” said Mr. Lake.

However, much work remains to be done to reach every child. “Too many children are still suffering and dying needlessly, from causes we know how to prevent. And in some cases, inequities are widening,” said Mr. Lake. “Unless we accelerate our current progress, almost 70 million more children will die before they reach their fifth birthdays by 2030.”

The Executive Director added that a forthcoming follow-up study, the findings of which will be released by UNICEF at the end of June,will present strong evidence in support of the organization’s  contention that equity-enhancing investments are cost-effective.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF/UN045740/Al-Issa
Syrian children at Jibreen shelter attend basic preparation classes in 20 classrooms rehabilitated by UNICEF and other education sector partners in December 2016. In humanitarian situations alone, 11.7 million children were reached with formal and non-formal education in 2016.

Results for every child

“Fuelled by …optimism and the unshakable conviction that every child deserves a good life, UNICEF keeps pressing onward, always learning, always growing,” said Ambassador Webson.

UNICEF and its partners continued to achieve important results for children in 2016. Highlights included:

More than 61 million children were immunized against measles, 15.6 million children received learning materials and 10.5 million people had access to improved drinking water sources as a result of UNICEF support.

In humanitarian situations alone, 11.7 million children were reached with formal and non-formal basic education, 2.4 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition and more than 1.4 million children benefited from cash-based support.

In 2016, UNICEF also achieved its largest savings to date, some US$520 million, through targeted procurement strategies, bringing the savings achieved for UNICEF and partners to approximately US$1.5 billion over the past five years.

“By changing people’s lives for the better – by achieving real results and real progress for the most disadvantaged and marginalized girls and boys – we all are showing that progress is possible,” said Mr. Lake. “That every life has an immeasurable value. And that, ultimately, the better, more equal world envisioned by the Sustainable Development Goals is not a naïve hope, but a reachable reality.”

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The Annual Session of the 2017 UNICEF Executive Board runs from 13–16 June 2017. During the proceedings, the Board will consider six draft decisions for adoption: the 2016 annual report of the Executive Director; the draft UNICEF Strategic Plan, 2018-2021; a new country programme; approval of several ongoing country programmes; Internal Audit and Investigations; and evaluation reports and management perspective and response.

 


 

 

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