NEWS – Pascal Villeneuve, UNICEF Representative in the DRC, leaves the country on a note of hope, whilst outlining the challenges remaining for children.
The Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Dr. Pascal Villeneuve, has reached the end of his mandate. On Thursday 30 March 2017 in Kinshasa, the UNICEF Representative in the DRC stated to the press that significant progress has been made for Congolese children. Nonetheless, he underlined that there are still enormous challenges remaining in certain areas in order to improve their situation.
UNICEF Representative in the DRC ends his mandate
Pascal Villeneuve is retiring after a thirty year career at the service of the world’s children. The UNICEF Representative in the DRC first stated that, “Progress has been made for children in the DRC, but some challenges remain.”
I’ll highlight three challenges: firstly, chronic malnutrition, secondly, registering children at birth, and thirdly, violence towards children.
Pascal Villeneuve highlighted malnutrition as a major challenge in the country. 40% of children under 5 years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition, characterised by stunted growth. However, there are effective ways to stem this malnutrition, such as exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life.
For the UNICEF Representative in the DRC, registering children with the civil state, thereby providing access to a birth certificate, remains an enormous challenge in the country. Only 25% of Congolese children are registered with the civil state at birth.
UNICEF Representative in the DRC’s main challenges
Pascal Villeneuve brought his mandate to a close by considering violence towards children in the DRC as a major problem still to be resolved. Indeed, he made particular reference to children being forced to join armed groups in the zones affected by armed conflicts, particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the east of the country and Kasaï, Kasaï-Central, Kasaï-Oriental and Lomami in the centre of the country.
Discussing progress made for children in the DRC, the Representative cited the 60% reduction in child mortality for under-5s over the last thirty years. Vaccination and the distribution of mosquito nets with insecticide, which are very effective in the fight against malaria, have been key in reducing child mortality.
“Currently over 80% of Congolese children are vaccinated against major diseases before their first birthday, whilst thirty years ago only 20% of children under the age of one were vaccinated in the country.”
Thanks to vaccination, measles is no longer one of the main causes of child mortality in the DRC.
Then, the Representative mentioned the progress accomplished concerning the education of girls. Thirty years ago, half of all girls didn’t attend primary school, whereas now as many girls as boys go to school.
A last meeting with medias
Responding to the question of the most important achievements during his career at the service of children over the last three decades, Pascal Villeneuve mentioned the progress in the fight against the polio virus. He made reference to the elimination of the disease in the DRC, which is one of the main causes of acute flaccid paralysis amongst children.
Another remarkable achievement is the almost universal adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Finally, the outgoing UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo ended his interview with the Congolese press by expressing his hope that the country can quickly regain its security and stability. He reminded that they are the essential foundations for all economic and social development within a country.
Article translated from French by Amber Sherman.
Photos: UNICEF RDC 2017 Mounet.
Yves Willemot est le chef de l’Équipe InfoCom de l’UNICEF RDC. Il fait partie de la grande équipe UNICEF depuis longtemps maintenant puisqu’après avoir été leur conseiller régional en communication pour l’Afrique de l’Ouest et l’Afrique Centrale à Dakar, il a dirigé l’UNICEF Belgique pendant 7 ans. Plus que tout, ce qui est important pour lui c'est d'être "tous ensemble pour les enfants".
Yves Willemot is Head of the UNICEF DRC InfoCom Team. He has been part of the large UNICEF team for a long time now since after being their regional communication advisor for the West Africa and Central Africa in Dakar, he led UNICEF Belgium for 7 years.More than anything, he believes that the most important is to "be together for the children".
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