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A visit to the Northern Cape: 5 Questions to Herve de Lys

Upington, 1 December 2016 - Known for its stark desert landscapes and vast swathes of arid beauty, the Northern Cape is South Africa’s least densely populated province. It is also a province where thousands of children are trapped in cycles of poverty, violence and inadequate access to health, education and social services. UNICEF South Africa is committed to working with partners in Government and civil society to improve the condition of children throughout the country, including the Northern Cape. To coincide with the UNICEF’s 70th anniversary, Country Representative Herve de Lys undertook a visit to the Northern Cape to assess the situation of children in parts of the province and to see how best UNICEF can ensure that no child is left behind. The visit included an interview conducted with the internal UNICEF news platform, Icon.


In today’s 5 Questions, Hervé Ludovic de Lys, UNICEF South Africa Representative discusses the results and takeaways from a recent field visit to South Africa’s Northern Cape. Additionally, Mr. Ludovic highlights the key priorities for the South Africa’s next Country Programme as well as the role Private Sector Partnerships play in providing solutions to the challenges facing children in the region.

Could you please tell us the focus of this mission in the Northern Cape?

Herve Ludovic de Lys (HL): Well, the focus of this mission in the Northern Cape is actually part of the 70th anniversary of UNCEF and the team and myself felt it was necessary for UNICEF to be in part of the country where children are hard to reach because of the distance and logistics that it implies. So therefore for us being here today on the edge of the Kalahari dessert is to show that UNICEF can be present anywhere across the country.

What were the main findings from this mission, you have been in the field the whole day, you have met health workers, you have met mothers and children, what are the key finding you’d like to share with us?

HL: There are basically three findings, the number one finding is the fact is that when you are dealing with the situation where children are so difficult to reach, proximity and agility in delivering services to children is critical. So finding ways to get closer to children is the first lesson, whether we use logistic, technology like innovations like mobile platforms must be explored in the province such as the Northern Cape.

The second conclusion to take away is the fact that family matters, the whole issue of parenting and making sure children receive proper care and information from caregivers is one of the takeaway.

The third takeaway that I am sort of going away with is the fact that we have serious concerns regarding undefined mortality whether its nutrition, HIV Aids and access to portable water, and these are issues we can address with the government but also improving income, involving some of the corporates into responding to these needs of children.

What are the solutions and how can we as UNICEF tackle these bottle necks?

HL: The solution I see is where we use our global knowledge drawing on what we have learned in reaching children in emergency for instance when we have difficult settings. How do we do this and how can we translate these experiences and knowledge into a region that is not undergoing an emergency but that is confronted with the kind of situation we find in emergency settings where we have geographic difficulties in accessing children.

The second solution is probably building a partnership with government, corporate and with UNICEF on forging solutions that are really suitable for this context.

On the issue of private sector partnership, South Africa is the leader on the African continent when it comes to this area, where do you think private sector has a niche as a provider of solutions for children specifically in a location such as the Northern Cape and the Kalahari?

HL: What is coming up from this field visit is that first of all we need to understand the economic dynamics of this part of the province. We need to understand who is active economically, who is an employer in this region, what is the interest of these employers to work and improve the well-being of their workforce and once we have that information we can use the brand of UNICEF, we can use our reputation we can use corporate engagement programme in South Africa to actually bring companies not only the local companies that are active here but to use our partners global level to influence the views and positions of the CEOs and of the managers the local companies and make them invest in children in collaboration with government entities that are present in the Northern Cape.

Could you give us key highlights of this new vision for UNICEF in South Africa over the next country cycle?

HL: The vision of UNICEF for South Africa for the next country programme is actually almost set as we have determined three core priorities, ending violence against children, results for adolescents and early childhood development in its global sense. So in terms of the road map, we more or less have what are the core priorities that we believe is important for South Africa and for the children of South Africa. We also have a very unique opportunity for South Africa because all new country programmes will actually start at the same time with the new strategic framework and all core priorities are aligned with the global priorities. We cannot influence the future without taking into consideration some very key drivers of child deprivation in South Africa. One of them is HIV/Aids the future will be eliminating mother to child transmission, making sure that all South Africans particularly children and pregnant mothers are getting the services they need.

Number two is poverty, there are hundreds of thousands rapped in poverty in poor households, the issue of poverty alleviation, UNICEF is going to have to contribute to poverty alleviation, addressing the issue of poverty from the child agenda perspective. There is also a clear factor that is fuelling depravation that’s the gender issue, so gender balance, reaching a girls and keeping them in school is going to be critical and I could say the whole history and legacy of apartheid has been characterised by violence, by extreme inequality, social disparities. So by the next country programme we will look into, how do we make sure that the 85 000 child headed households actually have an opportunities in the future, how do we make the 500 000 children are in foster care, how do we help government make sure that the quality of expenditures made for children are actually good.

We will be confronted by an environment where resources would become more stringent and the role of UNICEF in such a context is to be innovative, creative, cost conscious and to be effective in terms of reaching all children including those that are hard to reach and that is the purpose of being present here today.



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