MANILA, 27 April 2007 - UNICEF Representative Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Tuesday, led an unprecedented field mission to remote communities in Mindanao to deliver essential child health services under the Days of Peace Campaign. The team was able to access children residing in Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) territories who have not previously received regular immunization and other services due to conflict.
Remote hamlets Sara Muray and Tapayan in South Upi municipality of Maguindanao province were visited. Dr Alipui was accompanied by local officials, health workers and representatives of the Bangsamoro Development Agency of the MILF.
"This is an historic and unprecedented opportunity to reduce disparities that have affected significant numbers of children in Mindanao," said Dr. Alipui, "we were able to access Bangsamoro and indigenous Teduray communities who have not received essential life-saving health services for years." Child mortality, primary school completion and other basic indicators in Mindanao conflict areas are significantly worse than those in other parts of the Philippines.
The UNICEF visit follows the April 14 signing of a Joint Communiqué between UNICEF and the MILF which provides secure access for health workers attempting to reach children with vaccines, vitamin A supplementation, de-worming medicines and nutrition education. Under the Days of Peace campaign 702 hard-to-reach and conflict-affected barangays (villages) are expected to receive child health services over a two to three week period.
"We would like to see the campaign implemented as a component and tied up to the ongoing peace process between the MILF and Government of the Republic of the Philippines," Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chairman of the MILF added. "We would like our people to accept the program as among the fruits of the ongoing peace process."
The Days of Peace Campaign will also mobilize teams to deliver health, nutrition and education services in July and October 2007.
"The Days of Peace Campaign is not just a series of special missions. We intend to help reestablish routine coverage of conflict areas with essential basic services for children," Nicholas Alipui said. "Local people will be trained to provide many of the essential services on their own. The goal is to restore the routine provision of essential services for children through capacity building and provision of supplies within the next several months with a focus on the communities most affected by conflict."
Also joining the UNICEF mission were all four members of the popular Filipino rock band "Bamboo." This was the first time the band has joined in a UNICEF effort to help children. The band members helped deliver assistance to children and offered inspiring messages in some of the poorest communities in the Philippines.
"We knew we were going to see children who needed help," said lead singer Bamboo Manalac, "but nothing could have prepared us for the reality of seeing such deprevation." The remote hamlets reached by the team in the South Upi municipality of Maguindanao are populated mostly by Teduray indigenous peoples, many of whom had been displaced from their permanent homes because of armed conflict in recent years.
"Peace-building efforts will not succeed if we fail to deliver the basic services that families need. There can be no lasting peace if it is not linked with development," UNICEF country representative Nicholas Alipui said.
The first round of the Days of Peace campaign was launched on April 16 and is expected to run for at least two weeks in order to reach all targeted areas. In the first round of Days of Peace the target is to:
- Cover 702 barangays
- Immunize 94,496 children under two years old
- Provide de-worming medicine and vitamin A to 236,240 under-five children
- Reach 55,123 pregnant women
Note to editors
MILF is a Muslim separatist group in Southern Philippines. Armed conflict has affected thousands of villages in Mindanao for decades. The children in these communities often do not receive essential basic services simply because it is unsafe for health teams to travel there. The 2005 Philippines Human Development Report estimates that the economic cost of the Mindanao conflict from 1975 to 2002 is between US$2.8 to 5.5 billion and that Mindanao provinces most affected by armed conflict consistently occupy the lowest ranks in the Philippines Human Development Index.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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