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Statement by Ms. Hilde F. Johnson, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, on her visit to Sudan

Khartoum, 21 May 2008. During the last week in Sudan, I have visited Western and Northern Bahr El Ghazal, Warrap, South and North Kordofan, North Darfur, as well as Khartoum and Juba.

I have held key meetings held with senior officials in the Government of National Unity (GONU) and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS), including the First Vice President and President of the Government of Southern Sudan Salva Kiir, Vice President Taha, the Presidential Advisors on the East and on Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Cooperation of GONU, the Federal Minister of Health, the Minister of Regional Cooperation, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs,  and Minister of Health of the Government of Southern Sudan, the Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs, and State Governors amongst others.

I also met with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Mr. Qazi and members of the UN Country Team

Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is fundamental for children in Sudan. A full, speedy and timely implementation provides the best prospects for them and their future.

During my visit, the situation in Abyei seriously deteriorated. I am deeply concerned at the fighting that took place and its impact on the civilian population. I have just had conversations with both Vice President Taha and President Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan and was pleased to see, as a result of their discussions, that the fighting was stopped as of 4 pm yesterday.

The CPA was signed by the international community, myself included. It would not have come about without their support, participation and advocacy. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that it is fully implemented.  UNICEF has played its part to help implement the security protocol of the CPA with regards to children.  We have, for example, demobilized thousands of children in Southern Sudan, parts of the east and South Kordofan.   In addition, critical policy and legislative steps have been taken to strengthen child rights - such as the revision of Armed Forces Act at the GoNU level and the Child Act in Southern Sudan.

Despite the recent events in Abyei, we have also seen how the CPA creates opportunities for children.  Before, I was here on a peace-mission. Now I am here to support development and delivering the dividends of peace for the Sudanese people and their children.

Some of those dividends are already visible; more than 12.9 million children have been protected against measles since 2005, nine million children against polio last year alone.

During my visit, we launched the “jump start” phase of Sudan Accelerated Child Survival Initiative that will bring a range of vital health interventions to every child from Wadi Halfa to Nimule, from El Geneina to Port Sudan.

We have seen primary school enrolment more than triple in Southern Sudan since 2005, and enrolment rates almost double in the northern states in the same period.

We have seen first steps to integrated community-based recovery and development, example of which I saw in Saada and Shingil in South Kordofan - a programme that will eventually reach 800 communities across Sudan by 2012.

The situation in Darfur remains of critical concern. We are facing the hunger gap.  The months ahead could be particularly challenging because of increased displacement, pressure on the water table, reductions in WFP general food ration due to insecurity, and the poor harvest in South Darfur.

We need to closely monitor the situation of nutrition and food security and ensure we have full, timely information from surveys to ensure early actions. We agreed on this with the HAC Commissioner Mr. Hassabo earlier today.

Humanitarian space and access are being challenged by increased attacks on aid agencies and staff, and theft of supplies and equipment. These attacks serve only to worsen the condition of Darfurians. For example, the hijacking of the North Darfur State Water Corporation's drilling rig by an armed group in March means that 180,000 people may not have access to clean water this year. We call on all parties to respect humanitarian principles.

The Sudan Donor Consortium has provided more resources to allow scaling up of activities, even more than in 2005. While a significant proportion of funds will still go to Darfur and humanitarian response, more investments will be made in providing peace dividends to the Sudanese people. This will help bring Sudan back on track to reach the Millennium Development Goals. UNICEF hopes to scale up our programme and increase investments to ensure children reap the benefits of peace.





UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson’s trip to Sudan.
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