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UNICEF Executive Director visits child-centred projects in Egypt
NEW YORK, USA, 20 February 2007 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman has commended Egypt’s progress towards advancing child rights at the end of a three-day visit to the country.
“Egypt is well on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals,” said Ms. Veneman. “These include universal primary education, and reducing child and maternal mortality.”
High on the agenda for the trip were discussions on the need to provide more protection to vulnerable children, including those subjected to female genital cutting and children at risk of violence and abuse. Ms. Veneman met with the Prime Minister and other government officials and partners while also managing to see UNICEF-supported programmes in action.
Impact of girls’ education
Pupils at the Righa Girl-Friendly School, in the administrative district of Badrashein, welcomed Ms. Veneman with a song before demonstrating their class work in subject areas from mathematics to food and nutrition.
The school was built under the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, which launched in 2003 to level out enrolment rates between girls and boys by 2007. Egypt now boasts 94 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school.
Ms. Veneman commented on the extraordinary long-term impact this education will have. She told reporters outside the school that it will better not only students’ own lives but those of their families and their communities, in the end benefiting the country as a whole.
Centre for street children
Also on the itinerary was a visit with some of Cairo’s street children at a UNICEF-supported reception centre operated by the non-governmental organization Caritas. There are between 600,000 and 1 million street children in Egypt, and this reception centre in Kafr El-Sisi, on the outskirts of the capital city, takes in some 25 to 40 youngsters daily.
UNICEF provides the centre with technical support enabling staff to gradually reintegrate the children into society through health, education and counselling services. Ms. Veneman heard firsthand stories from the children about their lives – stories that revealed multiple reasons why children end up homeless, from extreme poverty to poor schooling.
“It’s encouraging to see the work being done to help vulnerable children,” said Ms. Veneman. “Where possible, these children need to be reintegrated with their families and get back into school.”
By supporting programmes like this, explained Ms. Veneman, UNICEF is using its experience and technical expertise from around the world to make a difference in Egyptian children’s lives – giving them a chance to get off the streets, get an education and go on to lead productive lives.