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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow completes visit to Guinea

CONAKRY / GUINEA 10 May 2010 – World renowned actress, humanitarian and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow ended yesterday a five-day visit to Guinea. In the lead-up to the upcoming presidential elections due in June, the mission focused on the plight of children and the need for sustained investment to respond to the needs of children and youth.

"This moment in the history of Guinea is both precarious and promising. We hope that those in position of leadership will place the health, education and safety of children at the centre of their mandate", said Farrow.

In Conakry, Farrow visited the Dixinn Primary School where she witnessed over-crowded classrooms, with 4 pupils sitting on a bench meant to host 2, no adequate supplies, nor access to water or latrines. The lack of investment led in a drop of two percentage points in school enrolment in the last two years (from 79% (2007) to 77% (2009) after a continuous increase in the last 20 years. Not enough classrooms are being built nor teachers trained to match the growing population.
But there are signs of hope. Last Thursday, the multi donor Catalytic Fund of the Fast Track Initiative “Education for All”, managed by the World Bank, allowed the disbursement of $64 million dollars to Guinea and mandated UNICEF to implement a $24 million two year programme to build 1000 schools, invest in teacher training and the improvement of curricula.

"This decision is to be celebrated," said Farrow. "The reform of the education system will give the children of Guinea the future they deserve."

In the capital city, Farrow also witnessed the weakening of health services due to the socio-economic crisis and political transition facing the country since 2006. At the Donka hospital in Conakry, Farrow visited the pediatric ward and saw first hand the lack of equipment and essential medicine. At the maternity ward, she saw three newborns fighting for their lives in one incubator. She also met with mothers of severely malnourished children and children in the throes of measles or other preventable childhood killer diseases.

"It is wrenching to watch a child dying of a disease that is completely preventable. This is a result of Guinea's failing health system", Farrow said. She also met with the member of the community of Fermissedou that set up a mutual savings insurance system and a moto-ambulance to provide pregnant women with prenatal and delivery care, including emergency obstetric care. "Creative solutions and the availability of resources can make the difference between life and death", she added.

In the Kissidougou area of Forest Guinea, she witnessed the dire state of access to health care in rural areas, with stock-outs of essential medicine and tools that prevent life-saving basic interventions to occur and mean that little progress is made towards child and maternal mortality reduction goals. In that context, Mia Farrow delivered new medicine kits to the Ministry of Health as part of a UNICEF-supported effort to ensure that essential drugs are available at primary health care centres.

Ahead of the upcoming Presidential elections, Ms. Farrow, who focuses on children impacted by conflict, has also met youth groups and launched a project supported by the Peace Building Fund and implemented by UNICEF and the NGO ‘Search for Common Ground’. The project aims to encourage young people to be non violent actors of change and lessen the risk of them being manipulated and caught up in violence, especially during and beyond the transition.

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 more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information, please contact:
Michèle Badarou, UNICEF Guinea, +224 623 50 251, mbadarou@unicef.org
Gaelle Bausson, UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office, +221 450 5816, gbausson@unicef.org




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