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Maestro Myung-Whun Chung takes advocacy tour to promote development in Benin

© UNICEF Benin/2008/Van Der Belen
In the rural village of Ilako Abiala, Maestro Chung received a warm welcome from 184 school students dressed with khaki uniforms provided by UNICEF.

ADJA-OUERE, Benin, 5 January 2009 – Director of Radio-France’s Philharmonic Orchestra and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Myung-Whun Chung recently took a four-day visit to Benin, where he spent time touring various UNICEF-supported programmes in the field.

“We came here to witness firsthand the UNICEF-financed programmes in various fields, such as HIV and AIDS, water and sanitation, and education and protection,” Mr. Chung said.

During his visit, Mr. Chung was accompanied by Chargé de mission at UNICEF France Catherine Pontet. The delegation also included three musicians from the Radio-France Philharmonic.

A community approach to health
In Adja-Ouèrè village, where Mayor Djima Fachola was on hand for Mr. Chung’s visit, the delegation held discussions with health workers who are engaged in a community approach to preventing malaria.

Mr. Chung pumped water at the only public drinking water source in the area, located at more than 5 km outside Adja-Ouèrè. He congratulated the local population on having access to safe water.

The delegation also visited the Ilako Abiala school, where 184 children are registered. All the education materials have been provided by UNICEF, including benches, textbooks, school bags, pencils and uniforms.

Challenges of HIV stigma
The trip featured a special focus on HIV/AIDS programmes supported by UNICEF France, including a tour of the antenatal clinic at Camp Guezo Hospital. There, pregnant women are encouraged to take a confidential test for HIV, and, if necessary, receive antiretroviral drugs and appropriate medical and psychosocial follow-up treatment.

© UNICEF Benin/2008/Van Der Belen
In Cotonou, Benin, Maestro Chung (at piano) and three other musicians from the Radio-France Philharmonic Orchestra perform classical music to deliver a message of hope.

HIV/AIDS specialist Dr. Alain Azondékon stressed that “even if 9 out 10 women who participate in antenatal visits agree on being tested, challenges are still ahead as stigmatization remains an issue.”

Ms. Pontet added: “If we want to succeed in the field of HIV and AIDS, we have to encourage women to deliver their babies in maternity wards, to accept the test and to be enrolled in the treatment process. However, we need the collaboration of all – especially their husbands and in-laws to – protect them from vulnerable situations.”

Concert for unity and peace
On the last day of the visit, the delegation met with children enrolled in literacy and vocational training classes. Many of them are victims of child trafficking and economic exploitation arising from poverty and a lack of birth registration.

During their apprenticeship, children in the vocational programme are given a chance to learn practical job skills such as hairdressing, cooking or mechanics.

In a highlight of the trip, Mr. Chung played the piano during a concert dedicated to the children of Benin. He and other musicians performed classical music expressing a common vision of unity and peace.




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