Sunday, August 17, 2008

The UN refugee agency in South Ossetia

At this moment, tens of thousands of civilians are living in precarious conditions, having been driven from their homes by the crisis in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.
Yesterday, the first UNHCR plane carrying emergency aid arrived in the Georgian capital T'bilisi – the first international assistance to arrive in the country since fighting broke out last week. This included tents, blankets, jerry cans and kitchens sets from our central emergency stockpile.
Over the weekend, I made an appeal to the Georgian and Russian authorities to establish humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee the conflict zones.
The UN refugee agency has a long-established presence in the region and, since 1993, has been caring for some 275,000 people displaced previously.
Working with local partners, we are now providing assistance to the most vulnerable and needy. These include many young children and family members separated from one another. The situation is evolving rapidly and we are monitoring the needs of the newly displaced population, which now numbers some 100,000.
We urgently need more supplies. We are working actively to get aid to South Ossetia, which has been cut off by the security situation. We also hope to reach at least 30,000 people who have fled across the border into North Ossetia in the Russian Federation.
Please help by donating to our emergency appeal.

We expect the cost of the operation to reach into the millions, so I’m sure you’ll understand why I’m hoping that we can count on you to help.

Whatever you can give will be greatly appreciated and make all the difference.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

UNICEF Executive Director concludes visit to Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 30 July 2008 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman concluded her visit to
Madagascar by
launching a tetanus campaign in the rural town of Andilamena with the Minister of Health, Dr. Ralainirina Paul Richard, and local officials.

Despite impressive progress in decreasing child mortality rates, Madagascar is one of the only countries in the world – and one of nine in the East and Southern African region – that has not eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus.

“Death due to tetanus is painful,” said Veneman. “But one visit to the local health centre, for a simple immunization, can help save a baby’s life.”

Tetanus, which accounts for an estimated 5 to 7 per cent of all neonatal deaths, is preventable through a vaccination. It is the first immunization that a child will ever receive as it is given by vaccinating the mother before she gives birth.

Benefits of birth registration

Veneman also launched an appeal for all families to register their children at birth. An estimated 25 per cent of Madagascar’s children are not registered.

Many of those children will be left behind without access to basic health services and education. A child without a birth certificate is more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, early marriage and child labour.
To better understand the situation of vulnerable children in Madagascar, Veneman met with young victims of abuse and exploitation.

“We want our parents to protect us so that we can go to school and we want the perpetrators to be arrested,” a young girl survivor of sexual exploitation told Veneman.

The UNICEF Executive Director also visited a community in the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo, where the Madagascar Rotary Club had installed a pump, which provides clean water for a community of 300 families.

“Water is essential to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” she said. “Water is critical for life, for health and for food production.”

The President of Madagascar, H.E. Marc Ravalomanana, emphasized to Veneman that improving access to safe water and sanitation is a key objective of the government.


UNICEF works on the ground in more than 150 developing and transitional countries to help children survive and thrive. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF works to advance the Millennium Development Goals by supporting child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation and AIDS.

About the UNICEF Executive Director:

Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.
At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled to more than 40 countries, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.