June 20, 2010 (JUBA) — The Sudanese government should increase its investment in children’s welfare to address persistent shortfalls in the health care and education sectors, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged.
UNICEF’s appeal came as Sudan joined the rest of Africa to commemorate the Day of the African Child, held under the theme, “Planning and Budgeting for Children.” Day of the African Child marks the occasion in 1976 when children in Soweto, South Africa spoke out against the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language.
However, their complaints were met with a violent response, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people and the injury of more than 1,000. The day was thus established in memory of their sacrifice, and to provide an opportunity to draw the world’s attention every year to continued neglect of children’s rights in Africa.
Meanwhile, to mark the annual occasion, the Khartoum-based National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) in collaboration with UNICEF organized music and theatre events, while a joint meeting with Federal Ministries and state governments to advocate for increased government investment in health, education, water and sanitation, and protection for the children of Sudan has been earmarked for mid-July.
In Southern Sudan, children and parliamentarians participated in a televised and radio discussions to highlight the need to place children’s issues at the forefront of budgetary decisions. Series of child rights workshops with children in various schools and detention centers were also held with discussions focused on how best children funding can be sufficiently allocated.
“Children are vulnerable and voiceless, particularly when it comes to having access to and control over resources,” Mr. Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Representative in Sudan remarked.
“Government spending, specifically on social services, affects children directly. [Thus] children must be taken into account when public budgets are prepared.”
WORRYING STATISTICAL TRENDS
According to the 2006 Sudan Health and Household Survey, approximately 305,000 children die every year before the age of five, while 26,000 mothers reportedly die annually at childbirth. Sadly, around 100,000 babies reportedly die at birth or shortly after, yet most of these deaths are due to preventable causes.
Hitherto, about 3.6 million children in Sudan, the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, are reportedly out of school, either due lack of infrastructure, shortage of trained teachers or existing cultural barriers.
Only 1% of Sudan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is reportedly dedicated to the education sector, yet Universal Primary Education (UPE) remains one of the key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expected to be achieved by 2015.
EXPERTS SPEAK-OUT ON CHILDREN
“Decision-makers in the government need to seriously look into this and
allocate more budgetary resources to children’s education, protection and
health, including access to safe water and adequate sanitation. If Sudan
does not invest more in education, health and protection for its children,
the future of the country will be compromised,” Mr. Kastberg said.
“All Government of Southern Sudan institutions, International NGOs, Local NGOs and the Private sector to factor children agenda in their plans so as to prepare for a better future for our children, and the generations to come,” Hon. Kezia Layinwa Nicodemus, ex-SPLM Commissioner for Women Gender and Child Welfare observed.
“The entire Southern Sudanese community to value children as the future of the country, invest in education, respect their right to quality education and ensure smooth learning in our schools,” SUDEMOP’s Lorna Merekaje told Sudan Tribune.
“The government should institute stringent rules and regulations regarding unnecessary closure of schools and dragging children into many public holidays which may not necessarily mean much to them,” she added.