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UNICEF Lauds Progress for Uganda’s Children, Urges More Must be Done

Says Government’s success in jeopardy without reaching 3.3 million still vulnerable children

KAMPALA, 12 May 2006 – On the occasion of the inauguration of H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as President of the Republic of Uganda, UNICEF said that the new government had a critical opportunity to renew the commitment of Uganda to fulfil and protect the fundamental right of all its children and women to access health, education, safe water, shelter and other essential services.

UNICEF warned, however, that without a concerted Government response to the plight of 3.3 million Ugandan children, who still remain vulnerable to poverty, disease and insecurity, the achievements of recent years would be threatened and Uganda’s reputation as a model for development would be damaged.  In particular, UNICEF said that the situation of children in northern Uganda’s conflict-affected districts constituted “an unacceptable failure” of the security, protection and development services.

UNICEF Representative in Uganda Martin Mogwanja said that the country’s political commitment to the fulfilment of child rights, especially since Uganda’s ratification of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child in November 1990, was laudable.

“Such a commitment, coupled with the establishment of appropriate policies and legislation over the years, is responsible for the increase in primary school enrolment from 3 million in 1997 to 7.3 million in 2005, for the reversal in HIV prevalence from a high of over 20 per cent in 1995 to 6.4 per cent last year, and the rise in immunisation coverage, including for measles, to over 80 per cent compared to 40 per cent a decade ago,” he said.

But progress has been less marked in addressing the needs of approximately 3.3 million vulnerable children living in 19 disadvantaged districts where health, education, safe water and other indicators on the status of children are consistently lower than national averages.  Malaria remains the largest single cause of child mortality.  High initial enrolment in primary education is not sustained, with only 27 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys completing the primary school cycle.  The 20-year armed conflict in the north has displaced 1.7 million people – including 935,000 children – from their homes into approximately 230 camp settlements.

“The conflict in northern Uganda tragically shows, in clear terms, how children continue to be the first casualties of violence, insecurity and poverty.  It is unconscionable that in the same country where one child can access the full range of his or her rights, another child living a few hours’ drive away lives deprived of even the most basic services,” said Mogwanja.

“It is the responsibility of the Government to protect all children in Uganda against all forms of violence and exploitation, building a protective environment for them, ensuring that their schools are safe and that their health and clean water facilities are functioning.  UNICEF urges that there is no better time than at the moment of its installation for the Government and its partners to reinvigorate their resolve, with new ideas and new action, to enable the most vulnerable children in the most disadvantaged communities to realise their rights to survive, develop, be protected and participate in decisions affecting them,” he said.

In February 2006, UNICEF officially launched its new five-year Country Programme of Cooperation with the Government, designed to benefit a total population of 6 million in the districts of Amolatar, Amuria, Apac, Bundibugyo, Gulu, Kabarole, Kaberamaido, Kabong, Kamwenge, Kasese, Katakwi, Kitgum, Kotido, Kyenjojo, Lira, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Pader and Soroti.

The new Country Programme is valued at approximately $82.8 million, subject to UNICEF mobilising specific-purpose contributions during the implementation period.  UNICEF’s 2006 budget for its programmes in Uganda is $16.8 million.  As at May 2006, available funding stands at 67 per cent of planned expenditures.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories 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.

Note to Editors:
Martin Mogwanja, UNICEF Representative in Uganda, is available for interviews in English and French

For more information, please contact:
Chulho Hyun, Communication Officer, UNICEF Uganda, +256 (0)77 222 2347, chyun@unicef.org

Anne-Lydia Sekandi, Assistant Communication Officer, UNICEF Uganda, +256 (0)77 240 9016, alsekandi@unicef.org

Visit www.unicef.org/infobycountry/uganda.html




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