UNICEF congratulates Rwanda on being declared first landmine-free country in the world

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Good news for Africa's most densely populated country

KIGALI, December 4, 2009 - UNICEF extended its congratulations to the Government of Rwanda today for being the first country in the world to be declared landmine free by the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World.

"This declaration is extremely significant as it shows to the world that a poor country, which has been devastated by war, can still take strong action to ensure the rights, lives and well-being of its children," " said UNICEF Representative, Joseph Foumbi, "and I would like to congratulate the Government of Rwanda for again being amongst the first in the world where action for children and women is concerned," he added.

Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa that has shown an increase in child survival over the past few years. It was also amongst the first in Africa to introduce the pneumococcal vaccine into its routine immunisation programme as well as being the first in the world to elect the highest number of women (56 per cent) to parliament.

Landmines were laid in Rwanda just before and during the war of 1994 and were responsible for killing and disabling hundreds of people, many of who were children.

Rwanda's Ministry of Defence launched a comprehensive demining programme in the late 90s - with the support of several governments and development partners, including UNICEF. This programme involved not only demining activities, but a huge awareness raising campaign to reach the entire population, including school children around the country.

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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.

For more information, please contact:

Patrick McCormick, UNICEF Media,
Tel + 212 326 7426