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UNICEF Regional Director Kaag commends UAE's efforts to protect children

posted on 11/12/2009: 1108 views


A UNICEF-backed study, known as situation analysis aimed at reflecting on the situation of women and children in the UAE, is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2010 to contribute to the relevant national strategies and policies for women and children, according to Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

In an interview with WAM, Kaag said the study as well as the situation of women and children in the United Arab Emirates were at the center of discussions that she had with Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Supreme Chairperson of the Family Development Foundation (FDF), President of the General Women's Union (GWU) and President of the Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood, as well as with other senior UAE officials.

Kaag cited "immense.. clear.. progress" in the UAE which demonstrated "commitment to the well-being of its women and children" as well as to humanitarian issues under the leadership of Sheikha Fatima.

"The UAE has made a significant progress in the areas of health, education and protection. We are confident that more will be done to continue to ensure that all children are safe from harm, abuse and exploitation," Kaag added.

In the UAE and other high income countries, Kaag noted, UNICEF sees a need to address emerging children issues such as road safety, protection and health problems, such as obesity and diabetes "which can be fatal." Over 90 per cent of children in the UAE are attending primary school and the country is on track to achieve universal primary education by the year 2015. UNICEF estimates the under-five mortality rate in the UAE at 8 per 1,000 live births, a considerable decrease from 15 per 1,000 live births in 1990. More can be done, however, to address issues such as youth participation and empowerment as well as in the field of protection, said Kaag.

"The UAE have already met the set targets for a number of Millennium Development Goals while others are well on track," said Kaag. "We are confident that data collection will further enhance policy formulation and programme implementation".

On Monday, Kaag met H.H Sheikha Fatima and the Family Development Foundation (FDF). During her visit, Kaag also discussed collaboration and cooperation with the UAE major humanitarian agencies and charities.

The UNICEF senior official expressed appreciation of Sheikha Fatima's patronage, leadership and support to issues of the well-being of children and women.

The current results, she said, would not have been achieved without Sheikha Fatima's commitment and personal contributions throughout all these years.

Last November in Abu Dhabi, UNICEF and its strategic partner, GWU, celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"The UAE government is fully aware of these issues and what is needed now is for coming up with very practical solutions." The collation of accurate and up-to-date data on children's rights is among the areas that UNICEF sees a room for improvement, according to Kaag.

The situation analysis would provide relevant information and statiscal data on the well being of children but, more significantly, would also come our with recommendations for analysis to recommend more action on negative practices such as violence.

The General Women's Union (GWU) is spearheading the analysis, with information being compiled through technical groups and consultants. When it is completed, it is expected to be made public.

GWU is UNICEF Gulf Area Office's Strategic Partner in the UAE since the early 90s. The child-focused and on-going cooperation between the two parties includes projects aimed at addressing advocacy for Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and information on children, child protection issues, childhood development, youth issues and HIV/AIDS awareness in the whole United Arab Emirates.

This partnership is under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, the chairwoman of the General Women Union (GWU) and the Family Development Foundation (FDF).

Kaag commended HH Sheikha Fatima for her patronage and unwavering support for children's issues in the UAE and presented Her Highness with a plaque as a symbol of recognition of her leadership.

During their talks, Kaag highlighted the progress of UNICEF projects with the General Women's Union, including the formulation of a national childhood strategy which will focus on the survival, development, protection and participation of children in the UAE.

Kaag's visit also marks the conclusion of the camel jockeys' project in which UNICEF and the UAE government worked to identify children used as camel jockeys and to reunite them with their families. "The Government of the UAE has made positive strides in addressing the serious protection concern affecting children previously involved in the camel jockeys industry," she said.

The UNICEF official discussed with counterparts emerging policy issues and priorities in the UAE and the region. Discussions focused on the challenges of the high prevalence of child obesity and preventable injuries in children, the opportunities to strengthen dialogue on youth participation, child protection and children with disabilities. Meetings were held with HH Sheikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, HH Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, wife of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of the Red Crescent Authority, HE. Ali Salim Al Ka'abi, Head of the Board of Trustees of the Family development Foundation, Ms. Nora Al Suwaidi, Manager of the General Women's Union and Mr. Mohamed Haji Al Khouri, Executive Director of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation.

Throughout the long years of collaboration and partnership, the UAE government and private donors have generously contributed to UNICEF's mission - most recently to humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Yemen and Afghanistan. UNICEF received USD 2 million from Khalifa Bin Zayed Foundation to fund its education programme in Afghanistan. – Emirates News Agency, WAM

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