UNICEF: Do more to help children in poverty

By Wen Chihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-03 07:04

Health and education are two important fields in which China and UNICEF can work together to help Africa in the future, says Gnilane Senghor, senior programme officer with UNICEF China in Beijing.

African children are in jeopardy as "malaria is killing a child every 30 second in Africa," says Ms Senghor, who is from Senegal and has being working at UNICEF China for 6 years.

The disease claims more than 1 million lives each year worldwide, and 80 per cent of them occur in Africa, according to a report by World Health Organization and UNICEF in 2004.

Given China today is such a big producer of commodities, Senghor said: "It can co-operate with UNICEF, a world leader in the procurement of supplies for children."

In 2005, UNICEF bought US$1.1 billion worth of commodities, a 38 per cent increase over the year before. US$26.3 million was direct procurement from China, and there was probably 3 times more through indirect procurement (meaning commodities produced in China, but not bought from China), she said.

Senghor said there is much China could to do to help the children of Africa survive, such as providing mosquito nets and medicines like artemisinin to treat malaria, as well as other pharmaceuticals and vaccines.

She added that to be able to buy vaccines from China, UNICEF needs these vaccines to be certified and meet international standards.

"There's a unique opportunity for China, and for Africa as well, to save children," Senghor said. "Through UNICEF, African countries can get more medicines at low cost."

Apart from the material assistance to Africa, "China could also offer "software" support."

She said "China could play a prominent role when it comes the quality of education, for it has meaningful experience in basic education, especially in early childhood education and distance education.

"And African countries would benefit a lot if China could support them to increase access and the quality of education, and eventually reach the goal of education for all.

"Africa definitely is a priority for UNICEF worldwide because it's far lagging behind compared to China, and China could share the same priority in a sense of co-operation," Senghor said.

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