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UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken draws attention to the critical needs of children in Afganistan

KABUL/NEW YORK, 12 April 2007 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Clay Aiken concluded a recent trip to Afghanistan today by heralding the progress being made in children’s education.
“As a former teacher I recognize that spark of hope and excitement all children possess when given the opportunity to learn,” said Aiken, who spent five days traveling between Kabul and Bamyan in the central region of Afghanistan.  “Rebuilding schools, training teachers, providing essential supplies and teaching materials are just some of the advances UNICEF and its partners have made to keep that hope flourishing.”
Last month marked a significant moment in the country’s recent history when more than six million children headed back to school to resume their education.  Education in Afghanistan has witnessed a tremendous boost over the past few years.
While in the capital city of Kabul, Aiken, who was appointed a UNICEF Ambassador in 2004, visited schools that have implemented programs meant to ensure all children regardless of gender receive an education.  While in Bamyan, Aiken visited a health clinic and women’s literacy center where many women learn how to read and write and experience formal education for the first time. The literacy program is one of UNICEF’s priority projects for the empowerment of women in Afghanistan.
Aiken also visited water and sanitation programs as well as a program that reintegrates former child soldiers into mainstream society.
“UNICEF is committed to reach out to all the children in Afghanistan and provide quality education,” said Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan.  “While there has been progress, there are still over one million children, particularly girls who are not going to school—we have to do more in order to change that.”

Some of the recent UNICEF-supported initiatives for education in the country include:

• Distribution of Teaching and learning materials to 2.71 million children and 61,780 teachers;
• Enrollment of 195,878 out-of school children  mainly girls who now have access to primary education through community-based schools in 29 provinces in Afghanistan;
• Supporting  Mobile School Protection Teams in 34 provinces;
• Training of 614 teacher  trainers as well as 8,110 newly recruited female teachers;
• Over 48,009 women enrolled in 1,782 adult Literacy Centres in 17 provinces.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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.

For further information, please contact: 
Richard Alleyne, US Fund for UNICEF in New York, + 1 212 880-9177, RAlleyne@unicefusa.org
Roshan Khadivi, UNICEF Afghanistan,   +93 798 50 7110,  rkhadivi@unicef.org
Katey Grusovin, UNICEF South Asia Media Hub, + 91810530715, kgrusovin@unicef.org




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