UN Children's Fund chief goes to East Africa

UN Children's Fund chief goes to East Africa

Ann M. Veneman
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann Veneman will visit northern Uganda this week to witness the calamitous situation of the "night commuters," local village children who must leave home and spend the night in the nearest big town to avoid being kidnapped and abused by rebels.

Her visit on Friday will spotlight a situation which the UN has stressed that the world should know more about – the plight of the children caught up in the 20-year-old conflict between the marauding Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Ugandan army.

Earlier this year, UNICEF estimated that some 20,000 children have been abducted, as many as 12,000 of them since 2002, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has on its books 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), along with 192,000 refugees.

On Thursday, Ms. Veneman will join UN Millennium Project Director Jeffrey Sachs in visiting Sauri, a north Kenyan village of nearly 5,000 people near Lake Victoria, to take part in a harvest festival and observe how integrated approaches to development are improving children's lives.

She will also visit UNICEF-supported child survival programmes in Wajir, a district in Kenya's arid north-east.

This will be her second trip to Africa during her first 90 days in office and comes after a stop in Paris, France, to attend the board meeting of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. There she said, "Progress for African children is essential if the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is much more to be done."