HON. MRS. NETUMBO NANDI-NDAITWAH
MINISTER OF WOMEN AFFAIRS & CHILD WELFARE OF THE REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA
THE 27TH UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN
New York, 10 May 2002
Distinguished Heads of State & Government, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am here to address this Assembly on behalf of His Excellency, the
President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Sam Nujoma, who is unable to
be with us due to other equally important National commitments.
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your unanimous election as President of the 27th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children. I am confident that you will lead the work of this Session to a successful conclusion.
I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General
for a comprehensive and informative report entitled A World Fit for
End-Decade Review of the Follow-up to the World Summit on Children . The report not only informs us on progress made and challenges encountered in the implementation of the goals of the World Summit on Children, but it also outlines recommendations for fixture action.
Allow me also Mr. President, to thank the Chairperson of the Preparatory
Committee, Ambassador Patricia Durrant of Jamaica and other members of
the bureau for their able leadership during the preparatory process. Our
sincere gratitude also goes to Ms. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of
UNICEF and her team for their tireless efforts and continued commitment
in promoting the rights of children in the world.
In the year 2000, the international community commemorated the Tenth Anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as well as the end of the decade of the World Sumri;it for Children. Over the past twelve years, we have witnessed significant progress in raising awareness of the magnitude of violations of children's rights, the world over. I note with satisfaction that no other treaty has amassed such support to become the most universally rated in such a relatively short period of time as the CRC. Because of this Convention, children have become more prominent on the political and public agenda and there is widespread recognition of their fundamental right to develop physically, mentally and socially to their fullest potential. As such, children must be brought up in a conducive child friendly environment within the family and community.
Despite reported progress, it is regrettable that the situation of children
in many parts of the world either remains unchanged or has even reversed
for the worse. Furthermore, new challenges have emerged with HIV/AIDS being
the biggest obstacle to development. The estimated 3.4 million new HIV/AIDS
infections are most prevalent among young people with girls most at risk.
The effect of armed conflicts and other forms of violence and abuse against
children are equally devastating. I wish to recall that, at the initiative
of Namibia, the Security Council held a successful open debate on children
in armed conflict in August 1999 and adopted resolution 1261/1999, the
first of its kind. This week, the Security Council adopted a Presidential
Statement in which it, among others, expressed its concern at the grave
impact of armed conflict on children and reiterated its condemnation of
the continued targeting and use of children in armed conflict. My delegation
identifies itself fully with that statement.
Namibia has taken-up the challenge of implementing the Plan of Action of the World Summit on Children seriously. Namibia was one of the first countries that ratified the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. The government has also ratified the two Optional Protocols to the Convention.
The National Plan of Action for Children (NPA), which was adopted in 1991, has benefited many vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Namibia. The NPA not only identifies and defines national goals with accompanying performance targets that would address the Summit goals, but also established the national implementation capacity and delivery mechanisms and effective structures for meeting these goals.
After the introduction of the Global Movement for Children, Namibian Members of Parliament held a one-day meeting to make their pledges to the Global Movement. They identified HIV/AIDS, Educating Every Child and Poverty Reduction, and Investing in Children to be the first priority areas in Namibia. They thus, directed our focus to the implementation of the Global Movement for Children.
Some of the priority areas addressed by the NPA are:
1. Health Care
Before independence in 1990, the health care system in Namibia was characterized by a curative approach and fragmentation along racial, ethnical and geographical lines. At independence, however, the Government adopted a preventative primary health care (PHC) approach aimed at ensuring that all Namibians, especially those living in previously disadvantaged regions and isolated communities have equal access to basic health care. These services were reorganized to comprehensively cater for preventive tertiary and rehabilitative health care, while underpinning community involvement and inter-sectoral collaboration.
The PHC addresses major health problems including vaccine, preventable diseases, safe motherhood, control of diarrhoeal and respiratory diseases, control of malaria and tuberculosis. As a result, incidences of diarrhoea in children under five showed a significantly declining trend between 1992 and 2000. Access to health services is over 80%. Neonatal tetanus has been eliminated, and since 1995, no wild polio virus has been reported. However, current data shows that the significant gains made since independence are being reversed mainly by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is estimated that we have over 80,000 orphans in Namibia as a result of HIV/AIDS. The Government is currently in the process of developing a national guideline on the Care and Protection of the Orphans. In its efforts to contain the spread of the epidemic, the Government established the National Aids Control Programme (NACP). In this connection, the Government formulated multi-sectoral strategic plans aimed at containing the spread of HIV/AIDS and reducing its impact on children, families and the society as a whole.
2. Nutrition and household food security
Another objective of the National Plan of Action is to increase family access to basic foods, both in quality and quantity. The Nutrition Programme that was established in 1991 continues to focus on prevention and control of micro nutrient deficiencies such as iodine deficiency disorders, Vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency anemia. Over 70% of households are using adequately iodized salt. The 2002 survey has shown that iodine deficiency disorder is no longer a public health problem in Namibia. Vitamin A supplementation programme was expanded and has achieved 90% coverage in 2000. National food producers and processors are engaged in food fortification with Vitamin A targeting staple foods, such as maize meal and millet.
3. Water and Sanitation
The Namibian Government recognizes that access to safe water and improved sanitation is the prerequisite for improved public health and a reduction in child mortality and morbidity rates. A policy on universal access to safe water and sanitation by 2006 was adopted in 1993. Substantial progress has been made in implementing the policy. Currently, 98% of the urban population and 66% of the rural population have access to safe drinking water.
4. Early Childhood Education (ECD), Basic Education and Literacy
The Namibian Government places special emphasis on early childhood development and has adopted a National Early Childhood Development Policy in 1996.
The policy re-affirms holistic child development principles. It underlines:
. The variation in children's stages of development and learning styles,
. The importance of the traditional family unit and social structure,
. That the environment should promote physical, social, emotional and cognitive development,
. That learning does not begin with formal schooling, and
. The importance of children being active participants in their development and learning.
In implementing the Policy, community activators and early childhood caregivers were trained and continue to be trained. Communities are also mobilized and encouraged to facilitate the establishment of early childhood development centers, and the government financially supplement their efforts.
In Namibia, Primary Education is free and compulsory, currently the enrolment rate is at 95% with no disparities between boys and girls. Repetition rates for Grades 1-7 declined from an average of 23% in 1992 to 12% in 1997. For boys it fell from 27.7% to 14.8% and girls from 24.1 % to 11.2% during the same period.
Access to education has gradually improved since in independence. Conceded
efforts are currently being made to provide universal sustainable quality
A National Forum on Education for All was recently launched as follow-up to the World Education Forum held in Dakar in April 2000.
5. Children in especially difficult circumstances
The NPA is also aimed at ensuring the protection of street children, orphans and children in other difficult circumstances and to tackle the root causes leading to such situations.
In 1993 the Namibian Police established the first Women and Children Protection Unit in Windhoek. Similar units have since been established in different parts of the country. The Namibian Police and the social welfare workers play a central role in coordinating the services offered to victims at these centers.
To provide a legal framework for the protection and care of children including orphans and other vulnerable groups, the draft of two pieces of legislation is at an advance stage.
Equally important, the Namibian parliament appropriate 46% of the annual
budget to the social sector and that has a direct benefit to children.
One of the major problems faced by the Namibian Government is the high level of inequalities in income distribution, inherited from the past apartheid regime, thus perpetuating poverty. Poverty in Namibia affects women more and this have a negative impact on children.
In face of those problems the Namibian government continue to build on the success achieve thus far while the developing strategies to face the new challenges.
Our main focus is resource mobilization, capacity building in enhancing effective management to realize our goals of the world fit for children.
These efforts require increased collaboration, adequate funding and
tangible commitments from all stake holders, both at national and international
levels. Hence, we fully concur with the Secretary-General's view, that
"if the community of nations is to make good on its decade-old promise
to give every child a better future, all of us must join in common cause
as never before - governments, multinational organizations and civil society
in all its diversity, including the private sector and the business community.
While we should all conunit ourselves to respect and uphold the rights of children, I wish to take this opportunity to remind all of us, including children, and I am happy that some of them are here today, that there are no right without responsibility. Therefore our children also have responsibilities and obligations, such as to study hard to be responsible to themselves, their peers, their parents and the community at large.
In conclusion, Mr. President, let me once again, reiterate my Government's commitment to full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and putting children first!
It is the hope of my delegation, that the declaration and the plan of
action to be adopted at the end of this session will serve the best interest
of the children of the world, and all of us are to commit ourselves to
its fullest implementation.
I thank you.