UNICEF celebrates its 75th anniversary

Remarks by Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNCEF Representative in Uganda

10 December 2021
UNICEF at 75 celebration in Uganda, Dr. Munir Safieldin
UNICEF Uganda/2021/Musinguzi

A good afternoon to all our guests. I am delighted to see you all here today as UNICEF turns 75—a milestone anniversary at a critical juncture. 

For 75 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading architect and advocate for child rights, whose work delivering for every child—especially in times of crisis—is as critical today as ever. 

My colleague Laura spoke earlier about UNICEF’s birth in 1946, after the Second World War. 

The world today is engulfed in crisis, just as it was then, with the most marginalized communities affected most.

In all likelihood, COVID will emerge as the worst crisis for children in UNICEF’s 75-year history.  Without action and proper investments, we will confront a lost decade for children.

What does this mean?

1.    The National Planning Authority has estimated that next month, when schools reopen, as many as one-third of all school-aged children in Uganda will not return to the classroom.  This is on top of the learning losses that all children registered over the past two years. The loss of education in Uganda will be a big driver of inequality in the years ahead, not only between rich and poor families, but between generations as well.

2.    We’ve seen preliminary data that shows a staggering increase in pregnancies among girls and adolescents, some of which are likely due to an increase in sexual abuse. These pregnancies will impact the life opportunities of these girls, while worsening gender inequality when it comes to the educational and career achievements of the most marginalized girls.

3.    More than a year ago, in September 2020, we learned that the pandemic had driven at least four per cent of Ugandans back into monetary poverty, while increasing multidimensional poverty among children, many of whom no longer have access to the most basic of material needs.

4.    With increases in poverty have come spikes in malnutrition, including severe acute malnutrition. We know the short- and long-term associations of under-nutrition in children, including delayed development milestones and the potential for poorer performance in school.

5.    The effects of under-nutrition in Uganda is estimated to cost the country as much as 5% of GDP each year, according to a recent economics paper on agricultural and food systems for nutrition.  That 5% estimate was calculated before the pandemic hit. Imagine what it is today.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a moral crisis. Many of us here today are parents, and we know the obligation we feel to leave the world a better place for our children than the world we received. 

We’re going to need to make extraordinary investments to counter the extraordinary losses that we’ve seen over the past two years.  This means accelerating the work we’re currently undertaking and, in many instances, no longer doing business as usual.

To change this situation, children must be first in line for investments, and last in line for cuts.

To respond, recover and re-imagine the future for every child, we call for:

-    Investing in social protection, human capital and spending for an inclusive and resilient recovery.

-    Reversing the alarming rollback in child health and nutrition.

-    Building back stronger by ensuring quality education for every child. 

-    Building resilience to prevent, respond to and protect children from crises – including new approaches to end famines, protect children from climate change and reimagine disaster spending.

I take this opportunity to thank the Government of Uganda with whom we work closely and jointly to implement the Government of Uganda - UNICEF Uganda Country Programme.

Since Uganda’s independence in the 1960s, the improvements in healthcare, child survival, vaccinations, and material wellbeing have been due to the committed partnerships of successive governments and civil society.

On behalf of UNICEF, I pledge our ongoing commitment to the children in Uganda and our support to the Government of Uganda to build a better Uganda for everyone and ensure that boys and girls have access to critical health care, protection services and are able to return safely to school and learn.

I thank you.

Media contacts

Catherine Ntabadde
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Uganda
Tel: +256 772 147 111
Tel: +256 772 629 567

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/uganda 

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