By Samuel Oyadongha
Yenagoaâ€”Bayelsa State government has signed a Programme Implementation Agreement (PIA) with the United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fund (UNICEF).
Under the agreement, UNICEF is expected to fund programmes in the areas of health and nutrition, basic education, children and AIDS, child protection and participation, water, sanitation as well as social policy, advocacy, and communication.
The state governor, Chief Timipre Sylva, signed on behalf of the state, while the head of UNICEF Field Office in Enugu, Mrs. Pelucy Ntambirweki, signed on behalf of the fund.
Speaking during the signing of the agreement in Yenagoa, Sylva assured that his government would fulfill its part of the deal.
To facilitate this, he said the state government will set up a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) within the next few days and also put in place a committee to ensure improvement of water supply in the state.
The governor noted that only recently, a committee was inaugurated to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply in the state.
He disclosed that the United Nations had given tentative approval for the setting up of an
office in the state.
Sylva said the United Nations House will be completed by mid next year.
Responding to a request by UNICEF for the setting up of a state planning commission, Sylva said a bill for the establishment of the Bayelsa Planning Commission had been sent to the House of Assembly for deliberation and passage.
He expressed dismay at the four polio cases discovered in the state after several years of a polio-free record, and assured the UNICEF team of governmentâ€™s commitment to the eradication of the disease.
Sylva said government was also committed to improvement of the stateâ€™s maternal and infant mortality record.
He expressed gratitude to UNICEF for its decision to focus on Bayelsa State in the next four years.
In her remarks, the head of UNICEF Field Office appealed to the state government to show more child-friendliness in its 2010 budget.
She called for the provision of structures that will facilitate the execution of UNICEF projects in the state.
The structures, according to her, should include a State Planning Commission, Rural Water and Sanitation Agency, and a State Emergency Management Agency.
Ntambirweki noted that health indicators in the state were gradually improving.
She disclosed that the state was expected to pay N6 million in counterpart funding up-front before the UNICEF could start the execution of its projects in the education sector.
She expressed gratitude to Sylva and his wife for their commitment to the execution of UNICEF projects in the state and called for their continued support.