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On the International Children's Day 2010

“Imagine the faces and bright futures of our own children -- then support those the world has forgotten. Help dedicated groups and governments care for those children as if they were our own. As, in a real sense, they are.” 

If you were a child living in Bosnia and Herzegovina today you may have to attend a school physically divided along ethnic lines, regardless of your choice of friends or way of thinking. Before you reach school you may have either no or limited access to pre-school education and the chance to play with other children. Poverty and preventable illnesses may affect your life due to inadequate services, especially if you live in a rural community. You may be a part of the community of internally displaced persons created by the war. In school you may suffer violence or exclusion because of how you are classified ethnically or religiously. If you are part of a minority you may be one of the invisible children who are not registered at birth and do not receive any social benefits due to this invisibility or the fear of social prejudice related to disability. When you become an adolescent you may face an uncertain future where unemployment is disproportionately high along with a sense of disillusionment. This may lead you into a world where drug abuse and crime combine to deny you a future or where the only future seems to lie outside of your country.   

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 170,000 children live in poverty and rural children are almost two times more likely to be poor than urban children. Only 6,4 percent have access to pre-school education, 14% in urban areas and 2% in  rural areas. A Roma child is two times more likely not to enroll in primary school and three times more likely not to finish it. Roma children are also five times more likely to be undernourished. Young people are more than two times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

In this context UNICEF aims at narrowing the gaps and at improving systems and services so they can better protect all children and their families. UNICEF is working with the government authorities across all social sectors at all levels, NGOs, civil society, young people and children to improve the lives of the most disadvantaged families. For example, in the area of early childhood development, situation analyses were undertaken in both entities, policies are being developed, health, education, social welfare professionals are enhancing their skills, parents are receiving information on how to take best care of their young children, and Integrated Early Childhood Development Centres are being established as part of municipal services. These Centres provide a wide range of services for children, parents and families and include home visits to reach the most vulnerable young children and their parents.  UNICEF is also supporting Municipal Management Boards to strengthen governance through the implementation of municipal action plans that are enabling local services to better respond to the needs of vulnerable children and families.

A decade ago, the world adopted the Millennium Declaration and its eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions - income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter, and exclusion - while promoting gender equality, education, and environmental sustainability.

Since then, the world made significant progress but, while averages have been improving, disparities within many countries and among regions have often been getting worse. In all 26 countries that UNICEF examined, the average under-5 mortality rate has declined by 10 percent or more since 1990. Yet in 18 of those countries, the gaps between child mortality rates in the richest and poorest segments of the population have either grown or remained unchanged.

So as the world considers the progress against the MDGs 10 years after their adoption, the big question is: can we reach the goals faster? The answer is, yes we can - not just by spending more money but by spending it to greater effect.

This is the result of studies undertaken by UNICEF which show that, contrary to the common belief that we save more lives by focusing on the easiest people to reach, we do actually save more lives by adopting an equity focus and by using approaches aimed at the most deprived.

This shows that principle and practice can go hand in hand in this case: an equity focus is at the same time right in principle, from a human right perspective, and right in practice, as it is more effective.
An equity focus does not mean abandoning the current approach. It suggests how to build on it by focusing future efforts on the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable areas and herewith achieve dramatic results.

We have just five years left to accomplish the future we envisioned in 2000, and to vindicate the commitments countries made to meet the MDGs.  We therefore wish to invite all partners to further take actions to reduce inequality and to ensure systems are in place to respond to exclusion issues. As a priority, countries must focus on the poorest, the most marginalised and the most vulnerable members of society by ensuring data collection, system reform aimed at equity in social protection system for children, participation of socially excluded families and quality of services targeting the poorest 20% of the population.

UNICEF in Bosnia and Herzegovina, like everywhere else in the world, will continue to remind and to work with government authorities, civil society, media, private sector, donors and other partners towards the fulfillment of all rights for every child.

Quoting Mr Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director’s words:”Imagine the faces and bright futures of our own children -- then support those the world has forgotten. Help dedicated groups and governments care for those children as if they were our own. As, in a real sense, they are.” 



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