Regional Director's corner
Word from the Regional Director
South Asia is a region of extraordinary human potential, but also staggering inequities.
Over 300 million children in South Asia suffer from at least one deprivation in education, health, nutrition, housing, water or sanitation.
Too many children here die within their very first days of life.
Those that survive face the threat of malnutrition: more than 1 in 2 wasted children live in our region.
And those who are fortunate enough to escape childhood illnesses and malnutrition may still not go to – and stay in – school, especially if they are girls. Every fourth girl in South Asia is married while she is still a child.
High levels of poverty and the absence of effective safety nets have made the most marginalized girls and boys pay the steepest price for humanitarian disasters and the climate crisis. As our region is hit with one crisis after another, deep-rooted inequalities, restrictive gender norms and discrimination have been exacerbated.
But these crises have presented us with a unique opportunity to build strong and adaptable health, education and protection systems.
We should start with the millions of families plunged into poverty, who need enhanced social protection programmes that really address the needs of the most marginalized children.
We can capitalize on the significant upgrades in our health systems, including our enhanced cold chain infrastructure, to revitalize the immunization programmes that protect children against measles, polio and other deadly diseases.
We can kickstart work with private sector to bridge the digital divide that particularly excludes girls, the disabled and the poorest children. And we can provide our adolescents and youth with the 21st century skills they need in today’s fast-changing economies, helping our region tap into its tremendous demographic dividend.
If we ensure each and every child in South Asia grows up healthy, well-nourished, and learning the skills they need for the future, it would accelerate not only sustainable development in the region – it would make a tremendous contribution to the global child rights agenda.
UNICEF has a long and proud history in South Asia with its talented and committed staff. Working with our partners, I know we can rise to the challenge and change the lives of the 616 million children in South Asia - and ensure no child is ever left behind.
Mr. George Laryea-Adjei is in charge of leadership, oversight and guidance to the eight UNICEF country programmes: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He also represents UNICEF with governments, donors, the private sector and civil society in the region.
With over 21 years of service in UNICEF, Mr. Laryea-Adjei has profound expertise in policy formulation and strategic planning, evaluation, crisis management, systems strengthening, resource mobilisation and partnerships.
Before his current assignment, he was the Director of Evaluation in UNICEF New York. He has also served as Deputy Director for UNICEF, Deputy Representative and Chief of Social Policy for UNICEF South Africa, Strategic Planning Office for UNICEF New York, and Programme Officer for UNICEF Ghana.
A national of the Republic of Ghana, Mr. Laryea-Adjei is an economist by profession. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Planning from the University of Science & Technology, Ghana, and a Master’s Degree in Urban Management and PhD in Economics from Erasmus University, The Netherlands.
Notes from the field
"With increased conflict and insecurity, it is children, those least responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan, who have paid the heaviest price,
The needs of the children of Afghanistan have never been greater. We cannot abandon them now.”
“We have no time to waste. Rohingya refugee children on Bhasan Char need their childhood immunizations or the consequences can be deadly. No matter how challenging or remote the setting, we must do everything possible to reach the most at-risk and marginalized boys and girls, regardless of who they are or where they are.”
The children I have met here have lost everything: loved ones, cherished schoolbooks, the only homes they ever knew, their schools, their sense of security.
Without urgent global action, the climate devastation we have seen in Pakistan will, I fear, only be a precursor of many more child survival catastrophes to come.
“What I saw in Sri Lanka is a caution for other countries in South Asia.
If we do not act now to protect children against the worst effects of the global economic downturn, the children of the world’s most populated region will be plunged further into poverty - and their health, nutrition, learning and safety compromised."
At a health clinic in Bataramulla, meeting 2-month-old Mevin who was there for a routine immunization visit.
During his meeting with Dr. Keheliya Rambukwella, Minister of Health, stressing upon the need to keep healthcare services operating for children and women. UNICEF handed over micronutrients for children and pregnant women.
At Mount Jean school in Watawala village, spending time listening to children, young people and teachers about challenges on the ground and distributed needed school supplies.