Govt recognises more can be done for children - Jagdeo - slashing infant mortality by one third is 2000 goal

Stabroek News
July 24, 1999

Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Bharrat Jagdeo, has appealed to families and educators not only to guarantee the rights of children, but to ensure that they grow up to be healthy, productive citizens.

Delivering the main address at the opening of a two-day National Consultation Forum on the Convention on the Rights of the Child at Le Meridien Pegasus on Thursday, he stressed that the future of the children must be safeguarded.

Speaking of Guyana's National Plan of Action for Children which was approved by government three years ago, Jagdeo said that it is the framework which gives direction to the formulation of policies and programmes aimed at addressing the rights of the child.

The plan has three major goals for children under five years and these goals have to be achieved by the year 2000. They are to decrease the existing infant mortality by at least one third, to reduce the maternity mortality rate by the same percentage and to lower severe malnutrition also by one third and moderate malnutrition by one half of the prevailing rates.

These goals, he said, are to be achieved through the rehabilitation of primary health facilities, increased immunisation coverage, a reduction in the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases and an improvement in its treatment through wide dissemination of oral rehydration therapy.

Other goals include more effective treatment of acute respiratory disorders, reduction of malaria among children through improved preventative measures, improved ante-natal care at the primary and referral level, better health promotion for pregnant women, improved nutrition for mothers and children and concentrated attention among the Amerindian population.

He noted that children should know what their legacy is at the national level. For instance, he said that they should know that 45 per cent of the national budget should go to debt financing while 10 per cent goes to domestic debts. They should also be aware of how much goes to programmes which involve them.

He said that Government's commitment to children has been further highlighted by legislation which includes proposals for amendments to some of the existing laws relating to children such as the act governing the employment of women and children which is now before parliament.

He said that as a matter of priority, considerable attention is being given to the promotion of public awareness of the convention. In this regard, the recently constituted National Commission for the Rights of the Child has set in train a promotion campaign which has utilised the print and electronic media and has organised a number of creative activities which in addition to securing the involvement of children, serves as a novel way of promoting some of the articles of the Convention.

Jagdeo also noted that the commission has been assigned the task of monitoring the implementation of the Convention and will undertake a measure of evaluation in order to determine the extent to which the goals are being met and that the ultimate goals of protecting the rights and development of children are achieved.

While the government has embraced the Convention and is committed to its implementation, it fully recognises that much more has to be done to achieve its goal.

The United Nations Children's Fund Assistant Representative, Juan Carlos Espinola, also addressed the gathering which included Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Indra Chandarpal and invitees from a wide cross-section of the society.

Guyana was among the first twenty countries to ratify the Convention on the rights of the Child and to date 189 countries have committed themselves to its full implementation.

In his address Espinola said that it is time to assess the progress of children, re-examine national development priorities and consider what legacy this generation is leaving for those yet to be born.

The UNICEF official said that although the central task of the country's development rests primarily on its people and leaders, the international community also bears a responsibility both to support the country in its development efforts.

Within this context, he said that UNICEF's work in the future will be enhanced by greater attention to three key areas. They are maternal and child health care and nutrition, cognitive and psychosocial development of young children, specific programmes for the adolescents, especially focussing on preventing HIV/AIDS and developing their skills to cope with life's challenges.

Also attending the consultation were representatives from a number of homes which receive annual subventions from government. These include The Alpha; the Berbice Anjuman; the Canaan Home; the Camal Home; St Ann's Orphanage; St John's Bosco; Abundant Life; Bethel Home; Joshua House; Shaheed's Boys Home; Shaheed's Girls Home; Bright Horizon; Hararuni; Mahaica Children's home and the Genesis Home for Battered Women.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples