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Early childhood dev, education of girlchild UNICEF’s priorities: Envoy

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Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the President of the UNICEF’s Executive Board for 2020, Ambassador Rabab Fatima has said early childhood development and empowerment and education of girlchild are among the priorities of UNICEF for the current year.

Ambassador Fatima revealed this on Tuesday in New York while presiding over the first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board, the highest policy-making and oversight body of the global fund that works for the rights, humanitarian and development relate issues of world’s children.

UNICEF is one of the largest UN agencies, with operations in 190 countries.

This first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board will continue until Thursday.

Ambassador Rabab Fatima mentioned that apart from protecting the rights of children, UNICEF needs to take upon the responsibility to prepare our children to become better human beings-imbued with the values of a culture of peace, non-violence and empathy to others.

Referring to two important milestones of multilateralism, the 75th anniversary of UN’s founding and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action towards equality for women and girls, she said, “We were yet to free our girls from being discriminated and left behind.”

She said they made a promise to the girlchild to empower her; and they must keep that.

Rabab Fatima gave an account of significant progress in the situation of children globally, for example, 60%-75% reduction in under 5 mortality rates since 1990, 82% access to anti-HIV medication by pregnant women, decline in stunting of children by 15% in the last two decades.

She, however, cautioned that over 660 million children are yet to be lifted out of poverty as 60 million school-going children remains out of school.

The UNICEF Executive Board President also spoke about new and emerging frontiers of vulnerabilities for children, namely, cybercrime, protracted humanitarian crisis, climate change effects, mental health issues which may disproportionately affect the children.

While she appreciated the midterm review process of UNICEF’s strategic plan 2018-2021, she stressed that UNICEF should work hard to address these issues.

She suggested that UNICEF should strive for innovative practices to improve further efficiency in their work.

In her speech, Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore highly praised Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for children-friendly policies, including skill development initiatives for country’s youth population and continued support to the Rohingya children’s cause.

This current session is the first of UNICEF Executive Board’s three mandated sessions held every year with the remaining two set to be followed in June and September this year.