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First Lady launches UNICEF Children's Report 2011, calls for investment in health, nutrition

Jun 3, 2011, 2:15 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

First Lady Zainab Yahya Jammeh yesterday launched UNICEF's flagship State of the World's Children report at the Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The report, which is released annually, catalogues the achievements and challenges in UNICEF's work with partners around the world to leverage substantial results for children and young people in the areas of rights and equity, survival, development, protection and participation.

The theme for this year's report is "Adolescence: An Age of Opportunity." It examines the social and economic status of adolescents. The report, among others, underscored the need to harness the potential, energy, and skills of young people, as well as invest greatly in them to break entrenched cycles of poverty and inequity, and accelerate progress and development.

The report covered four key contents such as the emerging generation; realizing the rights of adolescents; global challenges for adolescents; and, investing in adolescents.

It examines the dangers posed by emerging trends like climate change - whose intensifying effects in many developing countries already undermine so many adolescents well-being, as well as labour trends, which reveals a profound lack of employment opportunities for young people, especially those in poor countries.

In her launching statement, the first lady called for more investment in health, nutrition, as well as in basic education and protection for younger children, which she said has in recent years secured a significant better start in life for many.

"With these achievements, however, comes a responsibility to ensure that support for children continue as they grow and develop. Lasting change in the lives of children and young people, which are a critical underlying motivation of the Millennium Declaration, can only be achieved by complementing the commitment of the first decade of life with recognition of the importance of the second," Zainab Jammeh said.

According to her, the State of the World's Children report therefore calls on all governments and partners to invest in young people - to give them information, knowledge and skills.

Our future as a country lies in the quality of our human capital, she added, noting that the Gambia government under President Yahya Jammeh continues to be committed to the rights and welfare of children and young people.

UNICEF deputy country rep and officer in charge, Dr. Meritxell Relano, said each year, the report serves as a score card for every country to assess the gains made and the challenges encountered in meeting their commitment towards their children over the past 12 months.

She described as timely the theme for this year’s report as it places the necessary emphasis on some of the most pertinent issues affecting adolescents.

"Over the past 20 years, much gains have been made for children under the age of 10, and especially those under five years old, therefore resulting in a 33% global decrease in under-five mortality; increased access to vaccination, medicine, and safe drinking water; and significant improvement in girls’ enrolment and retention in basic school," she said.

Also speaking at the launching ceremony was Sheriff Gomez, minister of Youth and Sports, who stated that every year UNICEF comes up with detailed statistical analysis of the status of children focusing on a key issue.

"As today's children face indeed a challenging world, such globalised reports drawing perspectives from all corners of the world help stakeholders in providing targeted intervention measures to address the varied needs of children."

Youth and Sports Minister Gomez noted that such needs as access to education, youth and sport highlighted further that opportunities for gainful employment, quality and health care service, protection against crime, abuse and exploitation required the concerted efforts of all and sundry for the betterment of children.

Other speakers at the report launching included Fatou Lamin Faye, minister of Basic and Secondary Education and Sheikh Cham, a 14-year-old representing the Child Protection Alliance (CPA) and Voice of the Young.

The launching was characterized by drama performed by Young People in the Media (YPM). The launching also saw the presentation of key recommendations drawn at the conclusion of a day-long intergenerational dialogue forum organized by UNICEF on Wednesday.

Mr Alieu Jammeh, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports chaired the launching ceremony.