By Sola Ogundipe
UNICEFâ€™s Executive Director, Ms. Ann Veneman, is visiting Nigeria July 31 -August 3, 2009.
Veneman who is visiting Nigeria officially for the first time since her appointment in 2005 as the 5th Executive Director of UNICEF at the invitation of the Federal Ministry of Health, is expected to join the Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, to launch the first-ever National Child Health Week.
She will also pay an advocacy visit to the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar III, as well as Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Maitakarda Wammakko and his Kebbi State counterpart Saidu Dakin-Gari.
Part of her schedule will be a visit a nutrition centre in Kebbi State and participation in the National Immunisation Plus Days in Abuja, Sokoto and Kebbi States.
Venemanâ€™s visit is not unconnected with the poor health indicators of Nigeria. Worldwide, 9.2 million children under five years old die every year; 1.1 million of who die in Nigeria.
The UNICEF boss will dialogue with governments and other stakeholders on ways to reduce deaths and illnesses among children and women including by increasing coverage and use of key interventions and polio.
She will offer UNICEFâ€™s support to governmentâ€™s efforts to ameliorate the high levels of severe acute malnutrition.Actually, one quarter of all the children who die in Sub-Saharan Africa die in Nigeria. Seventy-one percent of the deaths are caused by diseases that are easily prevented or treated: malaria (24 per cent), pneumonia (20 per cent), diarrhoea (16 percent), measles (6 per cent) and HIV/AIDS (5 per cent).
As UNICEF ED, Veneman has stressed a culture of continuous improvement to help achieve lasting results for children. Under her management, UNICEF has launched initiatives to improve business practices, transparency and collaboration to ensure the agencyâ€™s programmes reach those most vulnerable and that its resources are utilised efficiently to protect, save and improve the lives of children around the world. These strategies, according to UNICEF, include establishing a results-based approach to programme management and scaling up the use of integrated packages of interventions to the health and development of children.
Since becoming Executive Director, Veneman has garnered first-hand knowledge of how childrenâ€™s lives are being saved and improved as a result of programmes and assistance provided by UNICEF and its partners.