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Thursday, July 13, 2000

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah launches UNICEFÕs State of the Nations Progress Report 2000

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Amman) It is imperative to view child care within the context of investing in human beings, rather than the mere provision of primary care, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah said Wednesday in a keynote address launching the annual UNICEF Progress of Nations Report.

"Childhood is not merely about primary care. If we are to truly nurture our children, we must move beyond that to investing in the human being - our true asset - through nurturing a creative and innovative nation that is able to engage technological challenges in our lives and the world we live in," said Queen Rania.

"This will enable Jordan to integrate into the global economy with full confidence and effectiveness - as an integral member in the global village, benefiting from technology and contributing to its innovation."

"Our efforts in the field of childcare are both constructive and fruitful; but they must be intensified and coordinated to ensure that they are comprehensive on a national scale," said the Queen.

The Progress of Nations Report is an annual publication prepared by UNICEF measuring the achievements of individual countries in child rights. Country progress is measured by factors such as advancement in education and infant mortality - goals generated from the 1990 World Summit for Children and the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

"Jordan has embarked on a comprehensive reevaluation of its legislation and regulations to ensure greater justice and fairness to the child, and the creation of a suitable and institutional framework that nurtures children's creativity," the Queen said referring to His Majesty King Abdullah's speech at the opening of the thirteenth session of parliament. King Abdullah had called for greater efforts in addressing the needs of women and children, including protecting their rights through legislation.

Jordan was one of the first countries in the region to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, noted the Queen.

According to UNICEF, the Kingdom is one of the first in the region to achieve most of the World Summit for Children goals for the year 2000, which called for the reduction of infant and under-5 child mortality rates by 50 and 70 per cent respectively.

Infant mortality has declined in Jordan to 29 per 1,000 births from 34 per 1,000 per annum. The under-5 mortality rate has dropped from 39 per 1,000 to 34 per 1,000 per annum. These figures are some of the lowest in the region, according to UNICEF.

"I read this report, first and foremost as a mother, having experienced events similar to those of any mother. I wish for every child what I seek for my own children - goodness, love and comfort. I cannot but feel with the plight of children of this region, particularly the children of Iraq," said the Queen.

The Progress of Nations Report for the year 2000 focuses on the following four areas: early childhood care, protection of children from exploitation and neglect, immunization, and HIV/AIDS.

Stressing Jordan's commitment to childcare issues and development, Queen Rania pointed to the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Working Group as well as the National Team for Family Safety.

The Early Childhood Development Working Group was established by the Queen in December 1999 with the aim of drawing up a comprehensive strategy to tackle the issue of early childhood education and development on a national scale.

Outlining the work and achievements of the Early Childhood Development Working Group, Queen Rania said that the Group has already begun studying the requirements of teachers and trainers in this field.

The National Team for Family Safety, established by Queen Rania last March, seeks to unify, under one umbrella, issues of domestic violence and family safety, especially those relating to women and children.

Focusing on the issue of immunization, Minister of Health Tareq Suheimat said that through national immunization programs, Jordan has been able to protect a high percentage of its children from diseases considered to be prime killers in other countries of the world.

Mr. Suhaimat also said that the Ministry of Health has devoted much of its attention to the welfare and health of children. "The Ministry has offered them necessary health care through its free services at Maternal and Child Health Centers spread throughout the Kingdom," said Mr. Suhaimat.

UNICEF Representative to Jordan Misrak Elias said that Jordan has done "extremely well" in the field of immunization, scoring 91 percent coverage. This exceeds the 90 percent coverage goal set by the 1990 World Summit for Children, said Ms. Elias.

Outlining UNICEF's contributions in Jordan in the field of early childhood development, Ms. Elias said that the Progress of Nations Report asserts that countries worldwide must ensure that a child receives adequate care and attention in his or her first 36 months of life.

"A child that does not receive the proper physical, mental and emotional care will not be able to realize his or her full potential. Thus, effective early care for children lies at the heart of human development," said Ms. Elias.

UNICEF is calling for an additional $70 billion annual global expenditure to be specifically dedicated to an early childhood development initiative, said Ms. Elias. "This is by no means an exorbitant amount in light of the benefits that would accrue. But developing countries on their own cannot muster this expenditure and thus the developed world must help," stressed Ms. Elias.

In general, the Progress of Nations 2000 focuses on HIV/AIDS, which UNICEF describes as "the most pressing crisis to hit the world", presently. The report states that the disease infects six people under the age of 24 every minute.

In a UNICEF statement, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that the spread of HIV/AIDS represents a broader problem; "the world's failure to fulfill children's rights."

"In fact, if governments invested adequate resources in childhood health care and nutrition, in care for pregnant women, in basic immunization, and in straightforward protection of children from exploitation, HIV/AIDS would likely be much less prevalent than it currently is," said Ms. Bellamy.

The Progress of Nations Report for this year also dedicates attention to the hundreds of millions of "lost children" in the world who are physically and sexually abused, who serve as child soldiers, and who live in the streets.

"Breathtaking numbers of children are lost everyday around the globe," wrote Director General of the International Labor Organization Juan Somavia. "Far too many - 30,500 each day, 11 million each year - die from largely preventable causes," he said in the Report.

Noting that many of the "lost children" are girls, Somavia said that of the estimated 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14, who are economically active, some 50 to 60 million between the ages of 5 to 11are engaged in intolerable forms of labor.

Ms. Elias, however pointed to the fact that, generally, the situation of children worldwide has improved on a number of fronts over the past several years.

"The world can take pride in the fact that millions of children are now less likely to be left mentally impaired, millions more are enjoying better health thanks to improved access to clean water, and even more children are enrolled in schools than was the case 10 years ago," said Ms. Elias.