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At Executive Board opening, Ann M. Veneman outlines key achievements for children

© UNICEF/HQ07-1139/Noorani
A girl stands in the Maslakh camp on the outskirts of the north-western city of Herat, Afghanistan, where both displaced people and local residents continue to use hand pumps installed by UNICEF for their drinking water.

NEW YORK, USA, 4 June 2008 – Executive Director Ann M. Veneman presented UNICEF’s annual report to the Executive Board’s second regular session of 2008, which began yesterday at United Nations headquarters in New York.

The report summarises the key achievements of UNICEF’s medium-term strategic plan for 2006-2009.

Ms. Veneman told the board UNICEF has made significant improvements in children’s health, development, education and rights during the past year. But she warned that new challenges – such as the food crises that are affecting parts of the developing world – threaten to undermine some of those gains.

Dramatic drop in measles
One of the most dramatic improvements cited in the report involved measles infections in sub-Saharan Africa, which dropped from 396,000 in 2000 to 36,000 in 2006.

“This represents a 91 per cent decrease in measles,” Ms. Veneman said, adding that it also met the target set for 2010.

Programs to combat malaria and polio have been successful as well. More than 400 million children in 27 countries received polio vaccines last year, and UNICEF supplied about 30 million anti-malarial treatments.

Education supplies reach millions

Also in 2007, UNICEF helped to provide national water, sanitation and hygiene programs in an unprecedented 96 countries, and its emergency education supplies reached 11.5 million children.

Still, many challenges to children’s health and well-being remain. The annual rate of reduction in child undernutrition is 1.5 per cent – a rate that is not sufficient to meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

“While some 58 countries are on track for reaching the goal of reducing undernutrition by one-half, increases in food prices have the potential to undermine this limited progress,” Ms. Veneman said.

Facing new challenges

More support is also needed to prevent the transmission of HIV from mothers to their children, Ms. Veneman told the board. Services are rapidly increasing – between 2006 and 2007, UNICEF doubled the number of antiretroviral drugs it purchased for AIDS treatment – but they still are not reaching all those in need.

In addition, Ms. Veneman noted, UNICEF needs to do more in the area of gender equality.

“We continue to face a number of challenges in the pursuit of key goals for children, as well as in further strengthening our organisational effectiveness,” she said.



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