National child protection strategy to be developed
-- under UNICEF programme By Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
February 28, 2007

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AS PART of its commitment to the five-year ‘Country Programme of Cooperation’ that began last year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday signed its second annual work programme with the government, which outlined the various activities to be undertaken in Guyana during this year.

Activities to be undertaken under the multi-million-dollar programme include setting up a ‘Children’s Budget’ in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance; the development of a National Child Protection Strategy in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security; and its continued assistance to efforts by the Health Ministry in achieving universal access to the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

Further, the establishment of legal aid services for children and a National Children Help Line will be realized later this year under the programme, according to officials from both the government and UNICEF.

The programme agreement was signed by UNICEF Representative to Guyana, Mr. Johannes Wedenig, and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry.

UNICEF, along with its national partners, has developed yearly work plans which outline priority areas of focus for specific interventions, and are part of its continued efforts to contribute to the global commitment of enhancing the realization of children’s and women’s rights and in support of national goals.

The signing yesterday signals the official commencement of projects and activities aimed at achieving specific programme results for this year. The projects are part of the five-year (2006-2010) Country Programme of Cooperation between the Guyana Government and UNICEF that commenced last year.

Wedenig lauded the “close and friendly working relationship” between UNICEF and the government, and noted that over the last few years, the annual budget has seen a steady growth, and has now reached more than US$2M for 2007.

Among the priority activities for this year under the progranmme are the establishment of a Children’s Budget, with the Ministry of Finance, and widespread dissemination of the results of the only national social indicators survey, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), led by the Bureau of Statistics.

The implementation of the campaign ‘No Violence Against Children is Justifiable, All Violence Against Children is Preventable’ and the continuation of the global campaign ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’, as well as the implementation of a campaign to get male partners more involved in sexual reproductive health are also listed as priority in the work plans.

The setting up of a ‘youth media group’ to document programme interventions and to act as a strong advocate for children’s rights is also linked to these campaigns.

The programme of activities also entails UNICEF working closely with the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to develop a National Child Protection Strategy, as well as offer continued support aimed at ensuring a protective environment for vulnerable children, such as those in orphanages, children affected by HIV/AIDS, victims of abuse and exploitation and adolescents in conflict with the law.

It was noted that the Ministry of Education is the main partner for the expansion of the ‘child friendly approach’ and the promotion of healthy lifestyles through Health and Family Life Education (HFLE) in schools.

In 2007, the “effective” school initiative will reach six regions and the national HFLE programme will start its roll-out in two regions, according to Wedenig.

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports is the lead agency for undertaking sports for development and social cohesion activities.

“These initiatives started in 2006 and will be scaled up to 2007,” the UNICEF representative told reporters.

And with regards to the Ministry of Health, he said UNICEF will continue its efforts in achieving universal access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The ministry will also be the main partner for the establishment of a National Salt Board.

“This is a joint programme of cooperation between Guyana and UNICEF and every year we detail the plans that we are actually going to implement in collaboration with our country partners and government ministries…so this is something that we plan together, implement together and at the end of the year, evaluate together,” Wedenig said.

UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children, and to create wider opportunities for them to attain their potential.