His Honour Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Vice President Of The Republic Of Botswana

on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children

New York
8 May 2002


This Special Session gives us the opportunity not only to review what our governments have been able to achieve for children over the last decade, but even more crucial, to examine the shortfalls. At this global conference, we are expected to adopt a wide-ranging series of goals that will place the children on top of the world's agenda and address the pressing issues of child mortality, exploitation, poverty and AIDS, among others. We need to reaffirm our commitments so as to attain these outstanding goals and targets set at the 1990 Summit as well as those set at subsequent United Nations conferences and summits, particularly the 2000 Millennium Summit.

It was indeed in the spirit of this principle, that Botswana participated at the World Summit for Children in 1990 and signed the Declaration in 1992. The signing of the Declaration formalised a renewed effort towards safeguarding the welfare of all children in Botswana. In this regard, the development of the 1993-2003 National Programme of Action for the Children was a logical follow-up on this commitment. Its implementation period was consciously tailored to coincide with the National Development Planning Cycle, in order to facilitate synergy in coordination and implementation, thus ensuring that the development agenda for children was at the centre of the country's development agenda.

At the time of the inception of our Programme of Action, Botswana had already surpassed several of the agreed global targets, save for some concerns of quality and coverage. Sadly, the situation has now changed as a result of HIV and AIDS. While the global goal was to have reduced, by one-third, infant mortality rate to 50 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality rate to 70 per 1000 by the year 2000, our goal was to have reduced the same rates by one third to 30 and 38 respectively by the year 2003. During that period, infant mortality rate had gone up to around 37 per 1000 live births, while the under-five mortality rates had stagnated at around 48.

Despite improved access to health services, including the recently expanded programme for the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV and free infant formula to children born to HIV positive mothers who opted not to breast-feed, these child survival indicators have now deteriorated. Infant mortality rate has increased from 57 and the under-five mortality rate to 75 in 2000. Our achievements in this area have not only deteriorated against our own targets, but also against the global targets.

The impact of this epidemic has also resulted in an unprecedented increase in the number of orphans; with 12 % of all children under 14 years having at least one biological parent dead. As part of the initial response to this problem, Government has allocated a significant budget to the orphan care programme that provides a targeted social safety net for all orphans.

Regarding the goal of reducing malnutrition among children under age 5 to half of the 1990 levels, including reducing moderate malnutrition from 15 to 7% by the year 2003, it has been estimated that 12.5 % of the children were malnourished in 2000. Moderate malnutrition has been recorded at 10.1 %. In addition, severe malnutrition has increased from a rate of approximately 1.0% in 1993 to 2.4%. Thus, we have not met our targets. This persistent deterioration may be attributable to the absence of parental care due to HIV/AIDS related maternal deaths.

A related goal was to have reduced maternal mortality rate by half from 300 to 150 per 100,000 live births by the year 2003. Although there is no current estimate on this indicator, rough estimation suggests that we have not been able to achieve this goal. Given the current high prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst the childbearing age groups, and the high level or orphanhood, it is most likely that this rate has not improved. As part of our efforts to improve this situation, Government has introduced universal access to anti-retroviral drugs.

We have made significant efforts in increasing the number of facilities that provide services to children with special needs from 20 in 1993 to 35 in 2000. In addition, Government provides handicapped children with assistive devices free of charge. Furthermore, special education is being integrated into the regular education system.

Rural development has been one of the key areas in our development agenda. To this end, there has been a significant improvement, from 68% in 1993 to 90.5% in 2000, in the proportion of rural households with access to safe water supply. The main constraint has been the declining yields of boreholes induced by persistent droughts and diminishing water sources due to contamination and overloading. However, since the goal is to increase access to 98 % and given the current efforts by Government, chances are higher that this goal will be achieved by the year 2003. Over 99% of urban households already have access to safe water supply, while the national estimate stands at 96.5%.

Mr. President,

Government has intensified its efforts for securing universal access to basic education and for improving its quality and relevance. Consequently, there has been an increase in access from 75% in 1991 to 86 in 2000 for children aged 6-13 years. This represents 84% male, 86% female, 89% urban and 81 % rural. Our efforts include the promotion of life-long distance learning, for which we have established a college of distance and open learning, to cater particularly for out-of-school education. Significant progress has been made towards achieving certain education targets as set out in our policy on education. The transition rate from primary to junior secondary school level continues to be maintained at 100%, while that from junior to senior secondary school is expected to reach 49% upon completion of the ongoing upgrading programme by the end of last year.

Botswana continues to review the entire education system with the aim of improving the quality and the relevance of basic education. Such efforts include the revision of the curriculum for the ten-year basic education programme, increasing the practical orientation of the three-year secondary education programme and the infusion of population-family life education dimensions. The draft adolescent sexual and reproductive health programme has been designed in such a way that facts about sexuality and health, including HIV/AIDS are a part of the examinable school curriculum.

In an effort to promote early childhood development, Government is about to adopt a policy on early childhood care and education. This policy will provide standards and monitoring frameworks for the private sector-operated day care centres and pre-primary schools. It will further encourage parents to put their children into an early childhood educational programme.

In adhering to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Botswana government continues to review a number of her laws to align them more closely with some of the provisions of the convention. To this end, we have translated the convention into our national language.

On the question of funding, it is a known fact that resources at national and international levels have been inadequate for the implementation of the summit goals. For developing countries in particular, the unavailability of resources has made it very difficult to achieve economic development as a whole. We appeal to donor countries therefore, to contribute generously.

In conclusion, Mr. President, my delegation encourages the United Nations, NGO's, the private sector and the media among others, to continue to expose serious violations of human rights because by so doing, greater public awareness of children's issues can be increased. My Government is fully committed to the goals contained in the Plan of Action that will be adopted at this session and hopes that the outcome document will not be an end in itself, but rather a guide on what needs to be done.

I thank you.