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Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson sees progress for children during Sudan visit

UNICEF Image: Sudan, Hilde Johnson
© UNICEF Sudan/2008/ Swangin
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson talks with a mother who brought her child to a UNICEF-assisted Outpatient Therapeutic feeding programme in Sudan.

By Edward Carwardine

KHARTOUM/JUBA, Sudan, 22 May 2008 – UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson has been in Sudan this week, reviewing the progress which has been made for children’s rights since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 that ended decades of civil war in most parts of the country.

"Before, I was here on a peace-mission. Now I am here to support development and delivering the dividends of peace for the Sudanese people and their children," said Ms. Johnson in a UNICEF media release.

Ms. Johnson began her visit in Khartoum, meeting senior officials from the Government of National Unity, before travelling to Southern Sudan and South Kordofan.

In Warrap State, Ms. Johnson saw how investment in local infrastructure is delivering tangible peace dividends for children, as she visited a new vaccine storage facility and school buildings constructed with the assistance of UNICEF.

Children's health and education

Since 2005, more than 12 million children have benefited from measles vaccination campaigns, while school enrolment in Southern Sudan has more than tripled since the signing of the CPA and almost doubled in the northern states.

"During my visit, we launched the 'jump start' phase of Sudan Accelerated Child Survival Initiative that will bring a range of vital health interventions to every child from Wadi Halfa to Nimule, from El Geneina to Port Sudan," Ms. Johnson stated.

UNICEF Image: Sudan, Hilde Johnson
© UNICEF Sudan/2008/ Carwardine
Ms. Johnson talks with a student at a newly constructed primary school in the South Kordofan village of Saada. The school was constructed in a partnership between the local community, UNICEF and other donor agencies.

Ms. Johnson was able to see first-hand continuing humanitarian needs in Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal when she met staff and patients at a specialized feeding programme in Malualkon. Acute malnutrition rates in the state is twice that of emergency levels.

Capacity building and empowerment

At a meeting with the President of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit and other officials in Juba, Ms. Johnson discussed the partnership between the government, UNICEF and other partners.

"During my visit, the situation in Abyei seriously deteriorated," stated Ms. Johnson. "I am deeply concerned at the fighting that took place and its impact on the civilian population. I have just had conversations with both Vice President Taha and President Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan and was pleased to see, as a result of their discussions, that the fighting was stopped."

During a visit to the village of Shingil, where community leaders have prioritised the construction of new school rooms and a health centre, as well as started income generation programmes for women, Ms. Johnson saw how seven communities consisting of different tribal groups have come together to share local resources.

Programmes such as these underline the peace-building potential during Sudan’s critical period of transition.




UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson’s trip to Sudan.
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