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UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on the UNICEF Executive Board's week-long working visit to Niger.
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UNICEF Executive Board Delegates Visit Niger
Guy Digan: You’re watching UNICEF television.
Drums beating the message for a better future greeted UNICEF executive board members. At a juvenile justice project in Niger’s capital Niame. The six men delegation from UNICEF’s governing body is in Niger to get an overview of programs underway in one of the world’s poorest countries. At this center for young offenders, delegates saw how Niger is implementing alternatives to incarcerating minors in conflict with the law. Social workers offer basic vocational and literacy skills and a future path on the right side of the law.
Robert Hill: Many of these kids have had a very fragile background, so again trying to build social interaction with peers so they can build a network of people where they interact with and also start social enterprise, social work and hopefully business. So to move them away from crime we have to see UNICEF support that really looks intrinsic.
Guy Digan: UNICEF is playing an instrumental role supporting the establishment of juvenile courts in Niger and legislation allowing judges to select community work to rehabilitate minors facing prison sentences. The children who are imprisoned, Niger’s prison authorities are beginning to create juvenile wards within prisons and provide activities such as gardening and music.
Led by Robert Hill, permanent representative of Australia to the UN, the delegation also discussed Niger’s progress towards achieving millennium development goals with senior officials and ministers. With the onset of a dry season and rising cost of grains, board members travel to Nereid in the countries south for a first hand impression of the program and the preventing malnutrition and boosting child survival. Since Niger’s food and nutrition crisis in 2005, UNICEF together with the government and NGO partners have established some 900 feeding centers.
Nearly a million children have benefited from access to treatment for moderate and severe acute malnutrition. An integrated health center, mothers are receiving support to monitor their baby’s growth and detect early signs of malnutrition. This mother is thankful for the free help provided by health workers and says her baby is in much better shape and is now putting on weight since the service started. Gaining the support of traditional leaders is for UNICEF in rural Niger. Particularly in raising awareness about child survival and protection within communities, a special guest, one of the most powerful traditional chiefs in the country, delegates saw the culture of story telling is educating people about HIV AIDS, immunization, birth registration and combating early marriages.
The delegation prays the leadership to improve the wellbeing of children in his community. Throughout their visit, UNICEF executive board members have gained an insight into the enormous challenges facing Niger. They’ve also seen the commitment of communities and government to improve the lives of children and women. As the significant decrease in the mortality of children under 5 shows, progress is achievable in Niger. This is Guy Digan reporting for UNICEF television, unite for children.