UNICEF welcomes AU action plan on the family

Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- UNICEF has welcomed the adoption by the AU Summit of the Action Plan on the Family underlining the fact that the family is a child's first line of protection.
"Without this essential buffer, children are immediately more vulnerable to abuse of their most basic rights," UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa remarked.
In a statement she made here Wednesday on the sidelines of the third ordinary session of the AU Assembly, Salah cited said, in many countries, families have failed to recognise their responsibility to care for such children.
"Action is needed to prevent children from losing parental care, to reunite those who have been separated from their families and to ensure the availability of loving alternative family environments for those who cannot return to parents or relatives," she said.
Focusing on the state of Africa's children and youth and the family safety net, Salah said: "Children have a right to grow up in a protective environment.
"Having lost their parents to disease or conflict does not mean that they are not entitled to the care and protection that a family provides.
Children will not be free from exploitation until all levels of society work together.
" As is reflected in the preliminary report on "The State of Africa's Children and Youth" presented to the AU Summit, a world of promises has been made and obligations assumed to Africa's children.
From the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Millennium Development Goals to the African Common Position of 2001 and the 2002 UN Special Session on Children, the promises and the goals have been largely consistent for the past 15 years.
But, as Salah observed, both governments and the international community were still a long way from meeting the promises and goals made.
"Children and youth are calling us to task," she said, referring to a panel discussion held Tuesday between teenage boys and girls with Addis Ababa Mayor Arkebe Equbay, the UN Secretary-General's wife Nane Annan and UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.
"We were reminded how critical it is to listen to the voices of youth.
The family is the first line of defence for children and that includes people up to the age of 18.
"Yet these girls and boys from Addis Ababa were telling us that children in Ethiopia are not discussing with their parents what could be the most important issue affecting their future survival -- HIV/AIDS.
Neither are they getting this information from their schools," Salah recounted.
At the end of the session, one of the girls pleaded with the adults to talk to and listen to their children, warning that if they don't do so, it would be like leaving children with a time- bomb, waiting to self-destruct.
The report on Africa's children shows the issues that continue to confront and even overwhelm many African States can readily be identified.
Among these are deep and widespread poverty, HIV/AIDS, malaria, malnutrition and under-nutrition, internal displacement of populations, drought, impaired services, deteriorating infrastructure, low revenues, inferior status of females, denial of problems, corruption, bad governance and its consequences.
These problems were exacerbated by violent internal conflicts and compounded in one country after another by political, economic, social and/or cultural issues.
As a result, Salah noted, "survival remains a continuous struggle for Africans across the continent, with women and children of both sexes facing the greatest adversity.
" "It is well past time to begin moving beyond commitments to implementation," she said, arguing that indicator after indicator, goal after goal, commitments repeatedly and often enthusiastically made received little or no follow-up by governments and donors as well.
"Those who pay the penalty -- and it is severe -- are the children and youth of Africa, on whose behalf the commitments were made," she added.
UNICEF has called for partnerships between governments and political leaders, who are accountable for action and progress, with civil society, young people, families, professional networks, artists, intellectuals, the mass media, and the business community, among others.
Making sure that all children, especially girls and children without parental support, can attend school is one of UNICEF's key missions.
By providing free basic education, countries can increase enrolment among girls and orphans, who are more likely to be denied their right to an education.

08 july 2004 08:29:00

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