Afghanistan

UNICEF regional director for South Asia pays first visit to Afghanistan

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Week-long trip will focus on situation of women and girls, review progress and highlight remaining challenges

Kabul, 28 July 2005 - UNICEF's Regional Director for South Asia, Ms. Cecilia Lotse, arrives in Kabul today on her first visit to Afghanistan. Ms. Lotse, who oversees UNICEF's programmes in eight countries across the region, will use the opportunity of her week-long visit to learn more about the specific situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

During her trip, Ms. Lotse will see at first hand progress being made in the south, south-east and central provinces of the country, visiting a maternal health centre and girls' school in Kandahar, a rural health clinic in Nangarhar, a women's literacy programme in Jalalabad and a community-based school project near Kabul. She will also meet with local community leaders and government officials to hear more about the challenges still facing women and girls in Afghanistan; a country in which 700 children under the age of five are estimated to die every day, where up to 70 women lose their lives each day due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth, where some 1.3 million primary school age girls are still not attending lessons, and where female literacy rates are just 15 per cent.

Ms. Lotse will also meet with a number of government Ministers, representatives of the donor community and UN chiefs to acknowledge the efforts being made to improve the status of women and girls in Afghanistan, and urge all partners to redouble their efforts in tackling some of the worst development indicators in South Asia.

Ms. Lotse will speak to the press at the UN press briefing on Thursday 4 August in Kabul, shortly before she flies back to UNICEF's regional headquarters in Nepal. There will also be opportunities for one-to-one interviews with the media during her visit, upon request.

Background

Ms. Cecilia Lotse has enjoyed a long and illustrious career in international development, since her first posting with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Botswana in 1976. In addition to her work with UNDP, Ms. Lotse also served for a number of years with the Rockefeller Foundation in the United States.

Ms. Lotse first joined UNICEF in 1986, in the agency's Programme Funding Office in New York. In 1995 she became Director of the Programme Funding Office, a position that saw her responsible for directing, managing and coordinating UNICEF's relationships and fundraising activities with government donors. She took over her new role as UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia in January 2005.

Ms. Lotse holds a Master of Philosophy Degree from Columbia University in the United States, having previously studied at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Maine, United States.

Ms. Lotse is a national of Sweden.