HIS EXCELLENCY DR.
ALI MOHAMED SHEIN,
VICE PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA,
DELIVERED AT THE
SPECIAL SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON CHILDREN
NEW YORK, 9th MAY,
I wish to extend to you and to the
members of the Bureau, our sincere congratulations on your election to
lead this special session of the General Assembly. Likewise, I warmly congratulate
the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, Her Excellency Madame Patricia
Durrant and her Bureau, for the hard work done in preparing for this session.
His Excellency Benjamin William
Mkapa, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, very much regrets
that he could not attend this important conference because of exigencies
of his Office. He, however, sends his best wishes for a successful conference.
As a follow-up to the World Summit
for Children, we held a National Summit in 1991 after which a National
Plan of Action was adopted. We agreed then to reduce by half the 1990 rates
of infant and maternal mortality, as well as that of children under 5,
by the year 2000. We committed ourselves to increasing literacy and to
making clean water and sanitation accessible to all. Indeed, in the first
five years we recorded satisfactory progress. However, that success story
was compromised by the scourge of HIV and AIDS.
In Tanzania, children make up more
than 54 percent of the population. In recognition of this fact, my government
formulated policies and strategies to address the rising challenges to
child development. The Tanzania Development Vision 2025, the Poverty Reduction
Strategies and the Child Survival, Protection and Development Program were
put in place. In addition, we have enacted legislation aimed at protecting
children from exploitation and safeguarding their basic rights.
Concurrently, my government is in
the process of ratifying the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on
the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare
of the Child.
In my country, over 50 percent of
households are unable to meet their basic needs. In such circumstances,
poverty will define every aspect of the child's development. A child born
in poverty wilt, in all probability, end up in poverty. In order, therefore,
to realize a world fit for children, we have to break this cycle of poverty.
Our work in this regard is constrained
by the prevalence of HIV and AIDS which has proved to be one of the greatest
threats to the fulfillment of children's rights. In my country, mother-to-child
transmission affects about 80,000 newborn babies. Our challenge now is
to mobilize the necessary resources and partnerships that are so crucial
in dealing with the pandemic. My government, with the assistance of UNICEF
and other development partners, has initiated the establishment of five
mother-to-child transmission program sites. These aim at providing counseling,
testing and treating pregnant mothers diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.
To compound the situation, the predominance
of conflicts in many countries has not spared children. In some cases,
children have been drafted as child soldiers. Yet in others they have been
forced into strange lands with their childhood interrupted and human rights
violated. For these children, a world fit for them has yet to be created.
Since peace is synonymous with development which enables children to develop,
it is our responsibility to protect our children from the horrors of armed
In many developing countries, the
servicing of the external debt overshadows the provision of basic social
services. Undoubtedly, in poor countries children are the hardest hit.
My government has always advocated for sustainable debt financing as an
important element of mobilizing resources. We greatly appreciate efforts
by the international community to resolve the problem of unsustainable
debt in the framework of enhanced HIPC initiative. Having reached the completion
point, Tanzania is now channeling the resources that would have serviced
the debt to priority sectors of education, health, water and rural roads.
In conclusion, the African child
foremost needs peace, education, good health and love. Indeed, all children,
as was reaffirmed by the Children's Forum, demand to be given an opportunity
to live their lives as children. That is their formative age which if wasted
cannot be regained. It is ironical that at a time when the world has accumulated
huge resources, today's children are crying for basic services. We owe
it to our children to marshal the necessary political will to provide for
their basic needs. We ought not fail them. The situation is urgent.
I thank you Mr. President.