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At a glance: Ireland

Irish President Mary McAleese key speaker as UNICEF meets in Dublin

© UNICEF 2004
President McAleese meets with UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte.
28 April 2004

Ireland’s President Mary McAleese delivered the keynote speech on HIV/AIDS as UNICEF’s National Committees gathered in Dublin for their annual meeting.  UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte, who has worked for the organization in Africa to raise AIDS awareness, was on hand to greet President McAleese on her arrival.

The President recalled visiting an organisation called "AIDS HELP" six years ago, shortly after her inauguration.  At the time she described HIV/AIDS as "a preventable problem and a ticking time bomb with potential for damage to humankind on an unimaginable scale.”  That was back in 1997, when 29 million people were infected with the virus. Today, with over 44 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, the President said, "This isn't just a disaster waiting to happen. This is a disaster that we are right in the middle of with no reassuring end in sight."

The 49th Annual Meeting of the National Committees brought  together 100 delegates from 37 countries.  Among the speakers was UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

“The shocking reality of this disease is that 14 million children have already been orphaned by AIDS and in six years time, we will have 25 million children growing up alone having lost their parents to the disease" she said.  "The challenge that UNICEF now faces along with our international partners and national governments is the comprehensive, massive scaling up of successful interventions and initiatives for protecting and supporting children orphaned by AIDS.”

“The biggest challenge of all remains funding,” said Maura Quinn, Executive Director, UNICEF Ireland, highlighting the fact that only 5% of the global HIV/AIDS budget is allocated to children.  "Children must be the priority when dealing with this issue,” she said. “As a body of National Committees worldwide, we are committed to increasing our resources for UNICEF programmes for children, and in particular championing the cause of children growing alone as a result of HIV/AIDS” she concluded.

Speaking at a later session of the Dublin meeting,UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte underlined the importance of art as a means of communicating about important issues around the globe.

“I call upon all of you asking not to dismiss culture, not to dismiss the artists in your country, and to remember that in every community in the world there is art. Culture is the most important arm of propaganda in the world. We artists do enter into your life if you want it or not,” he said. “All films and games greatly influence children – sometimes even to a culture of war. Please nurture culture towards the goal of service. We artists are here to serve you. Use us well.”



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