H.E. PROF. GEORGE SAITOTI, EGH, MP
VICE-PRESIDENT AND MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA
THE GENERAL DEBATE
THE 27TH SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN
NEW YORK, WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2002
The Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the Secretary-General for his Comprehensive Report on the Review of the Follow-Up to the World Summit On Children held in 1990. The report makes it clear that significant progress has been made in a number of areas relating to the welfare of children.
However, real drawbacks remain, which threaten to reverse the achievements
already made. It is my hope that this Special Session will adequately address
these drawbacks. In this regard, I am happy to note that the goals set
by the Summit in the areas of health, nutrition and education are noble
and remain vital to the welfare of children.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child remains one of the most important instruments for defining and safe-guarding the rights of children. The Convention has served us well, especially in strengthening action on emerging issues that affect the well-being of children.
The Government of Kenya is among the countries that ratified the Convention in 1990. We immediately established a Task Force to draw up a National Plan of Action, based on the 1990 World Summit Goals, to re-examine and up-date child laws. A new Comprehensive Children's Statute has been enacted by Parliament and became operational on March 1, 2002. The legislation has all the safe-guards for the rights and welfare of the child. In addition, a Family Court has been established to promote the welfare of the family as a custodian of the rights of children.
Similarly, we have established specific programmes for maternal child health and immunization. These measures have assisted in preventing early childhood diseases like measles, tetanus and diarrhea, and to monitor and improve the health of the child.
To address the basic causes of malnutrition, Kenya developed a national food policy with the objective of improving food security at the household and national levels. The Government is determined to encourage production of high nutrient crops and proper storage of food at the community level to meet the demands of better health for children. The school feeding programme targeting children in arid and semi-arid areas has not only supplemented dietary needs of those children but improved their participation and performance in schools.
Reduction of malnutrition among children requires significant improvement in the levels of education for child care-takers. Towards this end, Kenya has developed an Early Childhood Development Policy focusing on children between ages 0-6 years. The Government's long-term vision is to achieve quality education and training, while paying special attention to alternative approaches to basic education.
Poverty remains a major challenge to our efforts to meet the needs of
children. On the one hand, the high incidence of poverty has greatly compromised
our ability to address the pressing needs of children in such areas as
primary health care, nutrition, and basic education. On the other hand,
poor health and malnutrition are key reasons for the persistence of poverty.
In an attempt to respond to thesa challenges, we have developed a Poverty
Reduction Strategy Policy outlining priorities for poverty reduction. The
Government applauds the support it receives from our development partners
towards poverty eradication.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic poses a major obstacle in achieving national goals of promoting the welfare of children. Resources invested in education are lost due to school drop-outs arising from AIDS related illnesses. AIDS orphans are exposed to malnutrition, abuse and disease due to lack of basic care and financial resources. The pandemic seriously threatens recent gains made in child enrollment and education.
As part of our efforts to address this problem, the Government has formulated
a policy to facilitate interventions for children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Children orphaned by AIDS are provided with necessary support to access
primary education and other basic services. These efforts are realized
through mutual partnership between the Government, Civil Society and Communities.
The National AIDS Control Council has embarked on a Comprehensive Programme
on AIDS Education and Advocacy in schools and other centres of learning.
The burden of external debt continues to limit the ability of many developing countries to invest in the development of children. Some of these countries spend over 30 per cent of their Gross National Product to service external debt. In the past decade alone, Kenya used more resources to meet her external debt service obligations than she received from donor sources. This situation is clearly untenable. It has placed constraints on our ability to provide primary healthcare, education and other services for the well-being of children.
We are particularly concerned that the burden of external debt is increasing
at a time when there is a sharp drop in Official Development Assistance.
measures should be accompanied by an increase in Official Development Assistance. This would enable us to invest in basic social services for children.
Africa continues to experience problems associated with armed conflict. Kenya has in the past decade, hosted thousands of refugees fleeing from civil war and strife in their countries. We have witnessed at first-hand, the challenges that armed conflicts pose to the rights and welfare of children. The number of children affected by abuse, neglect and exploitation is rising. The trafficking of children is increasing especially in conflict situations. In recognition of the pressing need to counter such circumstances, Kenya last year signed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The Government has also ratified the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
It is a matter of grave concern that the peace dividend that was expected at the end of the cold war has not materialized. The world continues to spend billions of Dollars on the purchase of destructive weapons. These resources should be invested in improving the well-being of children, especially in developing countries.
As we renew our commitment for future action on children in this decade,
I invite world leaders to strive to achieve the targets of the major UN
Summits and Conferences and especially the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
The outcome of the UN Conference on Financing for Development - the "Monterrey
Consensus" and the outcome of the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable
Development should be at the centre of implementing policies favourable
to vulnerable groups in particular children.
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I conclude by appealing to the United Nations to remain in the front-line in the struggle to improve the rights and welfare of our children. A sound foundation has been laid for us to address matters of particular relevance to children at both the national, regional and international levels. I am confident that this meeting will come up with a concrete Programme of Action that addresses the concerns and well-being of our children. This requires our collective efforts.
I am happy to note that children are our future and we all have the
duty to assure them of long-lasting peace and prosperity.