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
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.