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UNICEF Executive Director underlines needs of orphans, nutritional issues

© UNICEF Burundi/2006/Joris
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman hugs a child at the therapeutic feeding centre in Gatumba, Burundi.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, 7 March 2006 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has praised the Government of Burundi for its work on child education, but has also drawn attention to the challenges relating to orphans and children living with HIV/AIDS.

“There are about half a million orphans in this country,” said Ms. Veneman, “approximately half of whom are from the war and approximately half of whom are orphans because their parents died from HIV/AIDS.”

Ms. Veneman’s comments came while in Burundi at the end of a trip to Africa’s Great Lakes region with World Food Programme Executive Director Jim Morris and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

Ms. Veneman said that UNICEF is working with the government and with non-governmental partners in Burundi to address the needs of these orphans, many of whom are also homeless. She pledged that UNICEF will continue to work with the government on health care and protection of the rights of children and women.
The purpose of the visit by the three UN agency heads was to consolidate efforts among their organizations and to raise awareness among the international community about the situation in the Great Lakes region.

© UNICEF Burundi/2006/Joris
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Representative in Burundi Catherine Mbengue, and the Director of the therapeutic feeding centre in Gatumba, Angela Buizza, admire paper flowers made by young patients.

Children’s nutrition

Regional food shortages are causing population movements from Rwanda into Burundi, and from there on to Tanzania. Even though Burundi’s decade-long civil war ended in 2004, families are still struggling to feed their children. About half of all children in the country are currently suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition

Ms. Veneman said UNICEF will increase its collaboration with the World Food Programme and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to meet the needs of mothers and children affected by the crisis.

Ms. Veneman said that proper nutrition and provision of adequate water and sanitation are intimately interwoven with the health, education and security of children and women.

While in Burundi, the three agency heads visited a therapeutic feeding centre in Gatumba. The centre is run by the Italian non-governmental organization ‘Gruppo Voluntarii Civile’, and provides nutritional care, medical treatment and HIV/AIDS testing and care for children and women..

On 28 February the Burundi government appealed for $168 million to help with its 2006 emergency plan. Part of the funds will go towards nutrition, health, education, and protection programmes, with a special focus on children and women. Donors and UN agencies have pledged to fully support the government’s initiative.




7 March 2006:
Okwudinno Okoh reports on UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman’s visit to a therapeutic feeding centre in Burundi.

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