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UNICEF Executive Director in visit to Jordan on first leg of regional mission

AMMAN, 3 March 2009 – UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, concluded a 2-day visit to Jordan which focused on the country’s innovative approaches to child protection and education.

The visit to Jordan comes as the first stop of a mission which will also take her to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, including Gaza, to take stock of the situation of children in the region.

Veneman met Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah. The Queen is a strong leader in addressing the most pressing needs of children in Jordan, while also providing inspiration to children at the regional and international level, through her pioneering role as UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children.  Queen Rania strongly advocated on behalf of children in the recent conflict in Gaza and the country has been instrumental in providing support to the Gaza population through the delivery of aid. Veneman also met with a number of officials while in Jordan.

“A recent study shows that more than one half of children in Jordan experience physical violence in school,” said Veneman. “Violence against children in schools is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.”

UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Education and UNRWA to tackle the issue of violence in schools through the Ma’an (Together) initiative.

The Family Protection department within the police is also responding to the problem of violence against children with a program of early detection in public hospitals, a telephone help-line and a referral system through the Ministry of Social Development.

A wide-scale better parenting campaign is being conducted nation-wide through the use of Imams in Mosques that targets mainly fathers and teaches them the principles of child care, respect, protection, and non-discrimination between girls and boys.

“The use of religious leaders and their moral authority in teaching principles of child rights to parents and families is an efficient way to reach out to the wider community. It is a powerful advocacy channel”, said Veneman.

Since the start of this programme in the year 2000 in partnership with the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and NGOs, UNICEF has trained 600 imams in skills to train parents on proper child-rearing practices. Over 130,000 families have been trained on parenting skills.

The Executive Director visited several schools, including one that takes part in the Madrasati (My School) initiative.  Madrasati (My School) is an original multi-pronged approach to education, which brings together the public and private sectors, as well as parents and the community in a collective effort to improve public school facilities and the standard of education throughout the country. Veneman welcomed the initiative as the kind of partnership needed to improve the quality of education.

Some of the schools that the Executive Director visited have integrated Iraqi children currently in Jordan. According to the Ministry of Education, there are 26,800 Iraqi children in school across Jordan. Jordan is also host to Palestinian refugees since 1948.The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) - which caters for Palestinian refugees in the region - has 1.7 million Palestinian refugees registered in its records in Jordan.

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.

About the UNICEF Executive Director
Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.
At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled around the world, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.

For more information, please contact:

Mr. Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, Regional Chief of Communication, UNICEF, Middle East and North Africa, Mobile: +962 79 7004567, E-mail: arghandour@unicef.org

Mr. Samir Badran, Communication Specialist, UNICEF – Jordan, Tel: +962 6 5502430, Mobile: +962 796926180, Email: sbadran@unicef.org

Mr. Charbel Raji, Regional Media and Communication Specialist, UNICEF Middle East & North Africa Region, Tel: +962-6-5502422, Mobile: +962-79-7315788 , Email: craji@unicef.org





3 March 2009: UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem reports on the visit by Executive Director Ann M. Veneman to UNICEF-supported schools in Amman, Jordan.
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