Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau: Support for girls' education

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ABIDJAN, 26 February (IRIN) - UNICEF has agreed to provide Guinea-Bissau with assistance worth US $23 million under a new five-year support and cooperation programme that will continue until 2007. The programme will cover child protection, nutritional health, primary education and functional literacy, and a social communication policy, the programme's coordinator, Karim Alkadiri, told IRIN.

The agreement was signed on Monday by UNICEF's country representative in Guinea-Bissau, Sergio Guimaraes, and Foreign Minister Joaozinha Vieira Co.

The programme will focus on the application of the rights of children and adolescents with a view to protecting them through drug prevention, awareness building, and HIV/AIDS control. It aims to improve the treatment of victims of child trafficking and sexual exploitation, and to fight against early marriages and female genital mutilation.

Its targets include getting more children in school, especially girls, and teaching them about peace. About 38 percent of girls in Guinea-Bissau go to school, according for statistics for the period 1992-2001. An earlier programme run in regions with low education rates - Gabou (east), Tombali (south) and Cachiau (north) - had increased the number of girls in school by six percent each year, Alkadiri said. He attributes some of the progress made under that programme to the involvement of parents and local communities.

UNICEF hopes to help Guinea-Bissau strengthen its vaccination services, provide children with Vitamin A, curb malaria and reduce iodine deficiency through the four-pronged programme, which will also seek to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS. There were 1,500 children aged 0 to 14 years living with HIV/AIDS in Guinea-Bissau by the end of 2001, according to UNICEF statistics.

The various initiatives are to be supported by a social and communication policy aimed at helping to reduce child and maternal mortality, and involving NGOs, media, local communities, youth and women's groups, and traditional and religious leaders. The mortality rate for children under the age of five years was 211 per 1000 in 2001, according to UNICEF.

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