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UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman concludes visit to Liberia announcing more than $19 million in assistance


UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, concluded her three day visit to Liberia announcing more than $19 million in additional assistance to the country, $17 million for education and around $2 million for advocacy, research and strengthening data collection systems. The total UNICEF contribution to Liberia for 2008 will be around $35 million.

“Liberia was torn apart by conflict but strong leadership is putting the country on the road to recovery,” said Veneman. “Children are returning to school and communities are rebuilding.”

The UNICEF Executive Director visited Lofa County, formerly known as the bread basket of Liberia, but due to the war, 93 per cent of the population was displaced. With the help of UN Agencies, UNMIL and NGOs, programs are providing basic health services and education for local communities. She met with young girls who were former combatants now being taught business skills training, promoting private enterprise in a variety of trades so that they can earn a living and fully re-integrate into their communities.

Despite collaborative efforts to rebuild, Liberia’s women and children still face significant risk of sexual violence. It is estimated that 50% of the reported rape cases are committed on victims between the ages of 10 and 14 years. The majority of women do not report rape as they do not see it as a crime, they see it as part of their normal daily lives.

But UNICEF and other organizations are working to help protect and promote a legal infrastructure for women and children against gender-based violence. Veneman visited a safe haven for children who have been either abandoned or abused by their families. The shelter, called THINK, provided girls with a secure environment, psycho-social counseling, and the opportunity to go to school. She also visited the Liberian National Police, Women and Children Protection Section, that works with women and children who are victims of gender-based violence.

Child mortality is unacceptably high. Women in Liberia have a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 12. This compares to one in 8,000 in developed nations.

“We know how to reduce child and maternal mortality,” said Veneman. “Immunizations, Vitamin A supplements, bed-nets, basic health care services that are simple and cost effective. These interventions can help save the lives of women and children in Liberia.”


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