News Archives

United Methodists discuss children’s needs United Methodists discuss children’s needs with U.N. speakers
LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mary Beth Coudal

Directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries visit the United Nations Oct. 11.

Oct. 17, 2005

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — UNICEF needs to work in partnership with United Methodists and others to end the threats to children in today’s world.

That was the message delivered by Rima Salah, UNICEF’s deputy executive director, to directors and staff of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries during a forum at the Church Center for the United Nations

Board members traveled to New York during their Oct. 10-13 annual meeting in Stamford, Conn. They also heard from Maria Jose Alcala, author of “State of the World Population” for the United Nations Population Fund, and Ruth Engo, founder and president of Africa Action on AIDS.

Established in 1946 by the United Nations, UNICEF works in 157 countries on issues of health, education, equality and protection for all children.

Salah said she has witnessed “many examples of the threats children face every day.” A native of Jordan, she has worked with UNICEF in Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Vietnam, and West and Central Africa.

Those threats include being abducted into armies or militias, being trafficked to other countries for cheap labor or prostitution purposes, and being subjected to rape as a weapon of war. “Even in times of peace, the lives of children are under threat,” she noted.

The United Nations has responded to these threats through the Convention on the Rights of the Child — ratified by all member states except Somalia and the United States — and the Millennium Development Goals, which are “focused largely on improving the lives of children.”

A key component identified by UNICEF to help achieve those goals is recognizing the benefits of education, especially for girls, Salah pointed out. Far too often, she said, children are not in school because of violence, trafficking, child labor or “merely because they are girls.”

In the Sudan, girls sent out from camps to collect water or firewood often face the threat of rape. To improve the situation, UNICEF is gathering girls into centers where they can be safe and learn to read and write.

Discrimination against girls and women in general, Salah said, “is the biggest anchor holding back development around the world.”

Alcala has the same opinion. “Economists agree education for girls is one of the most powerful tools” for economic growth, she told board members.

Although primary school education is important, “it’s when girls go through secondary schools that there’s the highest payoff,” she said.

Beyond education, gender equality also has economic and social implications for countries, according to Alcala. Gender inequality and violence, for example, have helped fuel the AIDS epidemic, with 75 percent of all new HIV cases being sexually transmitted between men and women.

“Many of the women report that they were infected by their only partner, their husband,” she said.

Engo told directors that her agency, Africa Action on AIDS, focuses on impacting the health of those who aren’t yet infected through such measures as clean water and sanitation and good nutrition. “Fighting AIDS is preventing AIDS,” she noted.

UNICEF and UNAIDS will launch a campaign, “Unite for Children, United Against AIDS,” on Oct. 25. During the next five years, the campaign will work to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, provide pediatric treatment, prevent infection among adolescents and young people, and protect and support children affected by AIDS.

Salah acknowledged that UNICEF or any other organization alone cannot solve all the problems that children experience. “Together, let us join hands and create a world in which children can live in safety and with dignity.”

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or Audio Interview with Rima Salah

“We need partnerships to succeed.”

Related Articles

United Methodist donations suggest new ways of giving

UNICEF appeals for $20 million for Pakistan earthquake

United Methodists sponsor Filipino women at U.N. forum



Board of Global Ministries

Millennium Development Goals