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Press release

UNICEF urges increased investment in Africa’s children for the continent’s future development

Day of the African Child 2010: Theme is planning and budgeting for children, our collective responsibility

NEW YORK/ADDIS ABABA, 16 June 2010 – Many of the millions of African children who don’t live to see their fifth birthday could be saved with greater investment in basic health services and infrastructure. These investments in children’s health, education and well-being will not only save lives but will also improve a nation’s future development.

Evidence consistently shows that where children and mothers have poor health, poor nutrition and inadequate education they earn less, are less productive members of society and they pass this poverty on to the next generation.

“Investing in children today will yield benefits for generations to come,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “It will also help save the lives of an estimated 4.5 million African children under five years of age who die each year, largely from preventable causes.”

Governments must promote adequate budget allocations for children and ensure that poverty reduction strategies and national development plans are child-centered. Now more than ever we have to make sure that children are on top of the development agenda. Through a range of declarations and targets, African governments have committed to provide 15 per cent of their national budgets for health, 20 per cent for education and 10 per cent for agriculture, and 0.5 per cent of GDP for improved water and sanitation.

Some African nations have made positive strides to achieve their budgetary and fiscal targets, especially in health and education. There are many examples of low income countries achieving strong returns from budgets that concentrate on human development. Through strategic investments in the survival and well-being of children, even countries with limited resources like Malawi have managed to reduce their child mortality rates considerably. In recent years, school enrolment rates in sub-Saharan Africa have been increasing much faster than they did in the 1990s, with countries including Benin, Ethiopia, Mozambique and the United Republic of Tanzania registering rapid advances. In addition, gender disparities in primary school are narrowing.
However, these advancements are simply not enough. Some 45.5 million pupils in sub-Saharan Africa are still out of school.

UNICEF is working with governments throughout Africa and other regions to analyze their state budget with regards to its impact on children in order to facilitate a more effective use of public finances for social purposes.

The Day of the African Child commemorates a 1976 march in Soweto South Africa, when thousands of African school children took to the streets to protest the inferior quality of their education and to demand their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down and in the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured.

To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity. The Day also draws attention to the lives of African children today.

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

Listen to a podcast with two African children, a student orphaned by AIDS and a former child soldier, about their experiences.

For further information, please contact:
Shimali Senanayake, UNICEF Media, New York,
Tel + 1 917 265 4516,

Anthony Mwangi, Public Affairs Manager, UNICEF Liaison Office to the AU and UNECA, UNICEF Ethiopia,
Tel + 25111 518 42 23, Cell: +251 911 51 30 58;

Martin Dawes, UNICEF West and Central Africa Office, UNICEF Senegal,
Tel + 221 77 569 1926,

Michael Klaus, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Office, UNICEF Kenya,
Tel + 254 20 762 2214,




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