World Children’s Day: UNICEF Burundi calls to “give every child the best start in life”

On the occasion of World Children’s Day 2023, UNICEF Burundi emphasizes the importance of investing in a child’s first 1000 days to ensure them the best possible start in life.

20 November 2023
©UNICEF Burundi-A. Muco

Bujumbura, November 20, 2023: World Children’s Day is being celebrated this year in Burundi under the theme ‘United for the Rights of Every Burundian Child.’ This symbolic date, marking the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, provides an opportunity to draw attention to the urgent challenges faced by children in Burundi and around the world. In this context, we hold a special thought for children who are victims of conflicts, whether in Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine, or elsewhere.

In Burundi, the celebration of this day comes less than 2 months before the implementation of the new UNICEF-Government of Burundi Country Programme Document for the period 2024-2027. A program that puts a particular emphasis on Child survival and development from conception through a set of interventions encompassing all social sectors, namely health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, child protection and social protection. Burundi has one of the youngest populations in the region, with 47% of children in a total population estimated at 12.8 million inhabitants. The category of under 5 years old, or 18.7% of the total population, remains the most fragile, suffering from significant deprivations in the four essential areas of their development, namely health, nutrition, early learning and protection. Indeed, one in 20 children dies before reaching their first birthday, while one in 19 children dies between the first and fifth birthday. In addition, more than 55.8% of children under 5 years old suffer from stunting, 4.8% from acute malnutrition and 27.6% from underweight. The causes are numerous including recurrent diseases, lack of access to sanitation and drinking water, food insecurity and the economic situation of families that do not allow to provide sufficient, balanced and quality food.

Other early childhood challenges are also the low preschool enrollment rate which remains one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa (13% in 2021); the low primary school completion rate; but also the violence and abuse of children which are very widespread, as well as gender inequalities that start early in childhood and intensify throughout adolescence. “Investing in children's development during their first 1,000 days of life is the most effective strategy to address the challenges they face, with a particularly high return on investment,” said Ms. France Bégin, UNICEF Representative in Burundi. “That is why,” she added, “the new UNICEF-Government of Burundi Country Programme Document will prioritize interventions targeting early childhood in order to provide the best start in life for every child. Studies conducted in Burundi have indeed shown that one Burundi franc invested during a child's first 1,000 days (i.e. from conception to the first 2 years of life) could generate a return on investment of 18 Burundi francs by 2050.” “We also welcome the efforts of the government which, in recent years, has done everything possible to increase budget allocations to the social sectors for children” concluded France Bégin.

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