Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations United Nations Children’s Fund Executive Board Second regular session 2012 Regional summaries of midterm reviews of country programs
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to begin by extending my sincere appreciation to United Nations Children’s Fund and to the international community for its strong commitment for Afghanistan’s development and the protection of women and children. In particular to Ms. Karin Hulshof, who made it her priority to visit Afghanistan immediately after her appointment as UNICEF Regional Director. It is an encouraging sign of continued support for and focus on the people of Afghanistan; particularly our children who will be vital in shaping the future of Afghanistan as the country transitions into a new phase of Afghan ownership and leadership.
Afghanistan’s transformation agenda is not only a time of change but also a time of unprecedented opportunity. The country has the potential to build a better future through investing in its people, and in particular, its children. As such, the government of Afghanistan will continue to work closely with UNICEF and build on the success of the MTR process which was truly a government led process and resulted in a productive and positive Formal MTR meeting chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earlier this year.
Three decades of perpetual war and conflict has led to the destruction of vital infrastructure and social services in Afghanistan, including schools, clinics and health centers. While intensive efforts have been made to re-build these essential services, due to continuing insecurity, more will need to be done to ensure safe access to education, sanitation and healthcare services for all.
Tragically, Afghanistan has one of the worst infant and maternal mortality ratios in the world with 1,400 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, the figures have improved significantly in the last decade and we remain committed to continued improvement in the years to come. The advancement of women and protection of children cannot be separated from our fight for a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan. In conjunction with our international partners, we will continue to work to ensure that the gains we have made in infant health will not be lost to insecurity.
Over the past decade, we have seen that investments made by UNICEF, various UN agencies, and non-governmental organizations in the areas of infrastructure, education and health have paid off. Innovative strategies have achieved positive results in mitigating internal and external challenges. Our UNICEF partners have engaged communities, civil society and relevant government agencies in creating forums for community dialogue.
We welcome the strategic shift made by UNICEF and the partnership arrangement under the National Solidarity Program of Afghanistan to closely align with the priorities of the Government to enable it to deliver programs with measurable results, sustainability and with greater ownership of projects by local communities. Collaborative efforts between the Afghan government and UNICEF have strengthened and engaged Afghan civil society; we endorse the priorities set out by UNICEF for the next country program. Our growing civil society alongside the Afghan Government will play a key role in helping to internalize these priorities to ensure long term success for the protection, health and education of children, particularly in rural areas.
Afghanistan remains committed to eradicating preventable diseases, such as measles and polio through childhood vaccinations. Improvements in water sanitation have also bolstered disease prevention rates. Additionally, Afghanistan’s Minister of Health joined with other Health Ministers around the world to sign a pledge renewing Afghanistan’s commitment to child survival. The pledge supports the ending of preventable child deaths and will help to sharpen Afghanistan’s national plan for child survival, monitor results, and focus greater attention on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.
There is an observed positive trend in the education sector as a result of continued efforts toward providing quality access to basic education for all children but particularly in the area of the enrollment of female students in schools across the country. Despite countless obstacles and security threats more than 2 million girls are now enrolled in schools and pursuing their education. We must continue our partnership with the international community to eliminate the violence and intimidation, utilized by extremist groups and promote the educational development of Afghanistan’s future generations.
Notwithstanding continuing traditionalism and conservative social practices in some areas of the country, we see Afghan women and children in a different situation today than ten years ago. In close cooperation with UNICEF and the international community, we have made real progress towards children rights. It is now time to focus on the prospects that lie ahead.
The government of Afghanistan fully appreciates the assistance provided by UNICEF, its efforts and innovative work in responding to the needs of the Afghan people. We hope that the support provided by UNICEF and the international community will be an indication that they will remain steadfast in their commitments to real change in the status of all Afghans and importantly, children.