Guinea: UNICEF sees poverty as root cause of unrest; international aid badly needed

15 June 2006
Girls start doing household work at a very young age

Poverty in Guinea, with a collapsing economy that is especially dangerous for children, is behind a massive strike in Conakry, the capital, and international support is badly needed to support the West African country, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Poverty in Guinea, with a collapsing economy that is especially dangerous for children, is behind a massive strike in Conakry, the capital, and international support is badly needed to support the West African country, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“We can summarize the root cause of all the social problems in Guinea to high levels of poverty,” UNICEF country representative Marcel Rudasingwa said of the violence, in which at least 18 people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces, according to media reports.

“Poverty affects not only households in general, but children in particular. Today, about 63 per cent of Guinea’s people are living under the poverty line, and that classifies Guinea as one of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” he added.

Yesterday, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced deep concern at the killings and called on the authorities to exercise restraint.

Despite its rich natural resources, Guinea remains underdeveloped. Poverty has an enormous impact on children and young people in a country where more than half the population is under 18 years of age.

“Out of every nine people, five are children or young people,” Mr. Rudasingwa said. “Because of poverty, they are made vulnerable to epidemics like HIV/AIDS.”

Although Guinea has abolished school fees, the cost of learning materials still takes a heavy toll on many families. In addition, many teachers are poorly trained and therefore unable to provide a quality education. As a result, many children are dropping out of school, either looking for work in the streets or falling victims of child trafficking.

To lift Guinea out of poverty, international support is badly needed, Mr. Rudasingwa said. Until then, even when the current crisis has passed, the well-being of the country’s children will continue to be under threat.

 

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