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Conseil d'administration

Board session focuses on achieving Millennium Development Goals in Africa

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© UNICEF video
The second day of the UNICEF Executive Board’s first 2007 session at UN headquarters focused largely on achieving development goals in Africa.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 17 January 2007 – Africa dominated the agenda on the second day of the UNICEF Executive Board’s first regular session of 2007, held at United Nations headquarters in New York today.

The board’s morning meeting focused on progress and challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a series of collective global priorities for peace and security, poverty reduction, the environment and human rights – by the target date of 2015.

Explaining the discussion’s focus on Africa, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said: "I think the statistics will tell the story.

"First, we all know that over 10 million children die of mostly preventable causes every year, such as disease and malnutrition," Ms. Veneman continued. "What many people do not know is that 5 million of those deaths – a full one-half of these deaths – occur in Africa. Now this is despite the fact that sub-Saharan Africa has only about 11 percent of the world's population."

Effective interventions

UNICEF's newly elected Executive Board President, UN Ambassador Javier Loayza Barea of Bolivia, then led a panel on integrated approaches to achieving the MDGs.

Participants included Ms. Veneman; Health and Nutrition Director-General Ernest Loevinsohn of the Canadian International Development Agency; epidemiologist Jennifer Bryce of the John Hopkins School of Public Health; Senior Research and Policy Advisor Joy Lawn of Save the Children USA; and the World Bank’s Sector Director for Human Development in the African Region, Yaw Ansu.
The panellists analyzed effective interventions to reduce child mortality and undernutrition, along with effective ways of addressing ‘bottlenecks’ to scale up maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition programmes. Mr. Ansu specifically addressed results-focused national planning and budgeting to improve children’s health and general well-being.

Results achieved for children

The MDG panel made a point of focusing not only on the many difficulties and challenges ahead but also on the positive results achieved to date.

“Often we focus on the catalogue of disasters out of Africa, bad news out of Africa, yet there are a number of large countries in Africa that, for the first time in 20 years or so, have demonstrated a significant reduction of child deaths,” said Ms. Lawn. “Several countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania – have reduced their child death rates by around 25 per cent in the last five years.”

She added that in many areas progress has also been made in health, nutrition, sanitation and education, particularly of girls and women.

Working with partners

Once again at today’s Executive Board meeting, speakers emphasized the importance of working closely with various partners to increase effectiveness and enhance results.

“That’s why the World Bank is trying to work with UNICEF, WHO, countries and other partners to strive to strengthen our collaboration,” said Mr. Ansu, adding that such partnerships lead to “quantifiable progress.”

The panel on Africa and the MDGs grew out of a recent meeting of all UNICEF Country Representatives and Regional Directors for Africa. A similar panel at a 2006 board session focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.

In both cases, the objective was clear – to make greater strides toward achieving the development goals and improving children’s lives.