|Friday, 24 September 2004|
from Manjula Fernando in New York
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy Wednesday commended the Sri Lankan initiative to launch the National Plan of Action on Children that proposes to build a better world for them, fulfilling a commitment made by the world leaders at the UN special assembly session in May 2002. Bellamy said that she was glad to see Sri Lanka going ahead with its commitment when she called upon President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at her hotel in New York.
Sri Lanka will spend over Rs. 14,100 million on this Action Plan targeting children. The Action Plan proposes to enhance child development sector covering education, healthcare, water supply, child protection, child labour and juvenile justice.
Some key objectives of the program are to ensure pre-school participation of children in the age group 3-5 from 62 per cent to 80 per cent, reduce all forms of child abuse, proper investigation, monitoring and legal reforms and to improve quality of care, protection and rehabilitation for children in institutional care.
The government has already allocated Rs.100 million for this purpose and the UNICEF Chief assured assistance for the program that will continue for four years until 2008.
President Kumaratunga said the country needed UNICEF support for a comprehensive mechanism to address the issue of mental trauma suffered by war affected families, orphans and widows in the North and East as well as the South.
She said this was a key issue threatening the future of her country, struggling to recover from a protracted ethnic conflict that left 23,000 soldiers disabled and many more traumatised.
The UNICEF Chief has agreed to send in experts in counselling to train Sri Lankans, in response to a request by the President who explained that Sri Lanka lacked proper expertise in this form of therapy.
Bellamy said she was happy to note that Sri Lanka is hosting the forthcoming Regional Conference on the Commercial Exploitation of Children in Colombo next month.
President Kumaratunga said the current UNICEF country representative, a dynamic and efficient personality, has made a positive contribution to further children's rights in Sri Lanka and has made good progress in suppressing the LTTE from recruiting child soldiers.
Produced by Lake House