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Agree on one thing next week, urges UNICEF. Agree on children.

Help them get their Vitamin A and help them go to school

KATHMANDU, 12 April 2006:  UNICEF has urged all parties to the conflict to agree on one thing next week: children.

“Two things happen next week that are of vital importance to the children of Nepal,” UNICEF’s Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai, said today.

“Baishak 3 (April 15), is the start of the new school year, and Baishak 6 and 7 (April 19 and 20) are the days scheduled for the national distribution of Vitamin A capsules and deworming tablets.

Every six months in Nepal, Vitamin A capsules are distributed to some 3.3 million children aged between six months and five years.  A further 3.1 million children aged between one and five years will be receiving deworming capsules that greatly reduce rates of anemia.  Some 48,000 female community health volunteers will mobilize in each of the wards in all 75 districts for the distribution, one of the largest child-survival exercises in Nepal.

“The capsules and tablets have been transported to the District Health Offices in the districts already,” said Dr. Sakai. “What the children need now is for the Female Community Health Volunteers to be able to distribute the capsules and tablets.

“Half of Nepal’s children are malnourished.  Many also do not have enough Vitamin A in their own bodies.  This essential vitamin helps boost their immune systems.

“Vitamin A distribution is estimated to save the lives of some 12,000 children each year.  This number is about the same as the number of people estimated to have been killed since the conflict began in 1996.  Vitamin A also prevents some 2,000 children each year from going blind.

“Whatever the issues between adults, one thing that they have agreed on in the past is that the children of Nepal have the right to live and be protected from disease.

“Even during difficult times in past years, Vitamin A campaigns have still reached more than 90 per cent of Nepal’s children.  We urge all adults to help ensure that children receive their Vitamin A capsules and deworming tablets on Baishak 6 and 7, including children in urban areas affected by strikes, demonstrations and curfews.

“UNICEF is also deeply concerned that the current situation may impact the start of the school year in four days’ time, on Baishak 3.  It understands that many schools are still uncertain about whether or not it will be possible to open.  Furthermore, there has been a suggestion that teachers should strike and that schools should remain closed.

“Children have the right to go to school, and they have the right to go to school without fear of violence.
“UNICEF is increasingly concerned about the damage the conflict is doing to the education of Nepal’s children.
“Adults fighting this conflict need to ask themselves what sort of Nepal they want to have once the conflict is over.  Do they want a Nepal with healthy children who can read, write and count, or a Nepal with children and young adults who are weak, sick and illiterate?

“Let all adults agree next week on one thing: put children first.  Help the children of Nepal get their Vitamin A capsules and deworming tablets, and help them get to school in peace.”

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Rabindra Giri, Tel. + 977 552 3200 ext 1177, Email rgiri@unicef.org




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