What She's Been Doing

The new Executive Director of UNICEF, Ann Veneman was guest-of-honor in June 2005 of the NGO Committee for UNICEF at a working breakfast in the Millennium Hotel, UN Plaza in New York.

The official NGO hostess was Dr Michelle Ecloat Poulton, Vice-President for International Progams of Child Fund International. CFI is one of UNICEF's most important partners worldwide, working especially in areas of child protection, the rehabilitation of child soldiers and other young victims of war, and in the fight against child poverty.

UNICEF has been particularly interested in the 2004 Child Poverty Study that Michelle coordinated with her CCF-CFI Regional Representatives and an academic team from Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford University. This defines poverty as children see it across the world. To the surprise of many adults, children as young as three years of age are perfectly able to express their anger and frustration concerning their low social status, lack of educational opportunities, political exclusion and economic disadvantage.

Children are also adept at finding solutions. Street children, for example, do not necessarily see the street as a "problem": it is often their solution to a worse set of conditions which may include domestic violence (they get away from their abusers by going into the street), abandonment and poverty (a child without parents may find solace and food in a group of street comrades), or gang warfare in the city precints - with the risk that later the young child in the street may become an adolescent member of a gang.

Children often have very clear ideas of what they need to break the cycle of poverty. Education is one key, although school may not be: children need a decent and relevant education in a calm environment that is conducive to learning.

Sometimes very tiny resources can make a huge difference.

One small girl in a very poor area of Uganda told Michelle, "All I really need is a candle. If I had a candle I would be able to read in the evenings and keep up with my school homework."

Solving the underlying problems that explain the missing candle, is the mission that UNICEF and its partner NGOs face and tackle every day.

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