Monday, June 13, 2011

Governments Must Place 'Child-Well Being' on Development Agenda

NEWS BANJUL THE GAMBIA (MB)- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Banjul, 2 June, 2011 launched the “State of the World’s Children Report 2011” at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Banjul.
The event was witnessed by the First lady Madam Jainab Yahya Jammeh, Ministers, Permanent and Deputy Permanent Secretaries, UN Agencies, Non- Governmental Organisations, Media, amongst others at a well attended event.

The report dubbed  “Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity”, which  highlights among other things, the need to invest in adolescents (aged between 10 and 19 years); to accelerate the fight against poverty; make their wellbeing and rights an integral part of the agenda; with a firm call for their recognition, protection and care, essential commodities and services, and opportunities and support. 
Launching the 2011 UNICEF Report on the State of World’s Children, The Gambia’s First Lady, Madam Jainab Yahya Jammeh said the Government on The Gambia continues to be committed to the rights and welfare of children and young people, while admitting that the future of a country lies in the quality of human capital.
She stated that government’s commitment in promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people is well known in the sub-region.
This, First Lady explained, "this has been demonstrated by the signing and ratifying of many international instruments, including the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and as well the passage of the Children’s Act 2005 and National Youth Policy by the government."
According to her, the UNICEF flagship publication 2011 report is fitting as “we enter the second International Year of Youth."  
The annual report, she debunked, will serve as a card for every country to assess gains made and challenges encountered in their commitments towards promoting and protecting the rights and needs of children over a year. The United Nations defines adolescence as young people between the ages of 10 to 19, she positioned.
Madam Jammeh pointed out that the free reproductive and child health services offered by the Government of the day have contributed to an increase in coverage of antenatal care (which stands at 97.8 percent against the 100 percent of the MDG target); it also increased the proportion of 1-year old children immunized against measles estimated at 96 percent.
Dr. Meritxell RelanoUNICEF’s Deputy Resident Representative and Officer-in-Charge of UNICEF Banjul, told the gathering that the new report estimated that there were an estimate of  1.2 billion adolescents living around the world, constituting 18 percent of the global population.
Of these, she said about 88 percent of adolescents live in developing countries while an estimated 16 percent live in the least developed countries. Based on current trends, sub-Saharan African is expected to hold more adolescents than any other region in the world, surpassing the regions in Asia which currently holds a record for having more adolescents.
She continued: “This year’s theme is timely as it places the necessary emphasis on some of the most pertinent issues affecting this age group. Over the past 20 years, much gain has been made for children under the age of 10, and those under-five years resulting in a 33 percent global decrease in under-five years’ mortality, increased access to vaccination, medicines, and safe drinking water, and significant improvement in girls’ enrolment and retention in basic school.”
She went on to explained that 40 percent of Gambia’s population is under-15 years of age; and 20 percent between 15 and 24 years, quoting the 2003 population census, she continued that enrolment into secondary school is low as it stood at 36.5 percent, this information, she said can be found in the Multi-Index Cluster Survey (MICS) 2005.
Also speaking at the launching, was the minister for Youth and Sports Sheriff Gomez saying that “We will ask ourselves the critical question of how we turn the challenges as contained in the report into opportunities and the opportunities we have into successes,” a critical comment minister Gomez threw to the floor.
He adds: “It is mostly the responsibility of governments to provide the essential structures, tools, facilities and means for people; including the young to thrive, however, what is usually challenging is how much these are put into good use,” he debunked. 
In a similar development, UNICEF on June 1, in cooperation with The Gambia Government marked a day long forum on theme “Intergenerational Dialogue on Adolescent" at the Friendship Hotel in Bakau. 
The day long forum was intended towards addressing issue affecting young people in The Gambia; draw a strategic plan that will guide young people to become productive citizens in life; and putting in place recommendations on the way forward for young people.
Speaking on the day of the forum, Mr. Jenieri Sagnia, UNICEF Educational Specialist, noted as we enter into the second international year of youth, now is the precise moment to reflect on the gains that we have made for young people in the past years, and reinforce our efforts to ensure that the gaps are bridged, and the UNICEF state of the world children 2011.
According to Sagnia the report will draws the attention of duty bearers to the great investment in young people, and gains that have been made in the areas of health, education, and protection to children under the age of 10.
He say the report highlights an increased enrolment of girls in primary education, 33 percent reduction in under-five mortality, access to routine vaccinations, and birth registration.
UNICEF Education Specialist, classified adolescence as vulnerable and a critical stage in the development process of young people adding that they must adapt to intense physical, emotional, sexual and social changes that establishes their identity to themselves, their families and their communities.
Coupled with these challenges, he continued, they (young people) are also faced with external influences and challenges, some of which often lead to risk taking, and abuse of harmful substances.
Similarly, they face a unique set of collective global challenges, including the economic crisis, high unemployment rate of young people, climate change, rapid urbanization, human disasters and conflicts,” he admitted.
“Greater attention must be given to care, empowerment, and protection of adolescent girls. Poor girls are subject to numerous forms of disadvantages and social discrimination and are often marginalized and miss out on school,” said Sagnia. 
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Mr. Sehou Toure, said giving opportunities to young people continue to serve as an engine of growth and prosperity for The Gambia. “It is inline with government policy” he said, noting that it is all geared towards ensuring sustainable development and a viable future. 

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