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UNICEF praises generous gift for indigenous Amazonian children threatened by disease, poverty, exclusion

GENEVA/LIMA, 3 June 2005 – UNICEF today announced two groundbreaking donations totaling almost $11.7 million  from the Finnish government that aims to boost living standards of some of the world’s poorest and most excluded children – those of the Amazonian basin of Peru, Ecuador and  Bolivia.

The donations are the single largest ever grant given to UNICEF in the region and will benefit an estimated 100,000 children in the Amazon. 

The donations will provide intercultural and bi-lingual education, education with an emphasis on girls, vaccinations,  and child protection along the border of Ecuador and Peru where a bloody war for territory was fought in the early nineties.

"The children of the Amazonian basin live in one of the most remote, inaccessible areas of the planet, and this donation will enable UNICEF to deliver the services that every child has the right to enjoy,” said Andres Franco, UNICEF Representative in Peru. 

All children in the Amazon are considered poor, and all indigenous children and women of the Amazon are considered extremely poor.  Most are dispersed along rivers and reaching them is always dfficult.  For example, under five infant mortality in ethnic groups in the Amazon is three times the national average. 130 out of 1000 children dies before their fifth birthday.  Ninety children out of 1000 die before their first birthday.

Because travel to the Amazonian basin can take two to three days and require flight, boat and overland transport, lifesaving public services such as vaccinations can cost some 8 to 14 times what they cost in Lima. 

One of the agreements, for almost $ 5.5 million, aims at promoting intercultural bilingual education the Amazon basin of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, where nearly all of the population is indigenous.

The second agreement for $6.2 million will consolidate  comprehensive interventions on child survival and development, education with an emphasis on girls, and child protection along the border of Ecuador and Peru where a bloody war for territory was fought in the early nineties. This project will benefit more than 60,000 indigenous children and women from the ethnic groups Shuar and Ashuar in Ecuador, and Aguajun and Wampis in Peru.

Mr. Franco and His Excellency Mr. Kimmo Pulkkinen, the Ambassodor of Finland in Peru sealed the agreement recently in Lima, where both projects will be managed.

“UNICEF is prepared to accept this challenge and we will do everything to work with national institutions to reach these indigenous children," said Mr. Franco.  "Thanks to Finland, the lives of these children will improve."


Facts on Indigenous populations in the Peruvian Amazon

  • Maternal mortality estimated to be between 600 and 700 per 100,000 live births, i.e., four times the national average.
  • Seventy five per cent  of all children are chronically malnourished and register a high incidence of diarrhea and respiratory infections. 
  • Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and Hepatitis B reach the highest incidence and mortality in indigenous groups of the Amazon with immunization coverage running low (in many instances as low as 20 per cent). Cold chain equipment for transferring vaccines is obsolete.
  • Fifty per cent of all women do not read or write, and only one of four indigenous girls that begins primary school actually finishes secondary school. Girls’    drop-out from school is two times higher than boys. The quality of education is the lowest of the country.  Peru placed last in the 2002 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, administered in 41 countries. 
  • More than half of the adult population are not registered citizens. Three out of four women are under this situation.

For further information, please contact:

Damien Personnaz, Geneva  ++ 41 22 909 5716

Maria Pia  Valdivia ; Peru,  ++:  511 213 0707 ext  745

Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York  +1 212 326 7452




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