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Estonia Helping Children in Afghanistan, Mali, and Democratic Republic of the Congo Through UN Children's Fund


No 417-E

Through the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Foreign Ministry is supporting education projects in Afghanistan, ongoing education for children in Mali, and improvements in the humanitarian situation of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the humanitarian situations in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mali are complicated. “Due to conflicts and a difficult humanitarian situation, many people in Afghanistan, Mali and Congo lack access to things necessary for everyday life. Often the ones who suffer most are the children, who in addition to enduring everyday suffering often find their schooling interrupted or have no opportunity to get an education at all,” stated Foreign Minister Paet.

“Estonia supports UNICEF projects that support the continuation of education for children in crisis zones and protect them from violence. Providing humanitarian aid is a clear way of expressing solidarity among people and countries as well as support for human rights, with the goal of directly alleviating peoples' suffering,” he added.

The goal of the UNICEF education projects in Afghanistan is to improve access to a school education and to make a school education possible for girls. Currently 42% of the school-age children in Afghanistan lack the opportunity for an education and only 39% of the adult population is literate, with the percentage among women being even smaller (13%).

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains very complicated. There are still about 4.1 million people who require food aid and agricultural support, 68% of the population lacks access to clean drinking water and sanitation systems, and 15% of the population does not have access to basic medical care.

UNICEF's activities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are geared towards decreasing malnutrition in children, allowing children to continue a school education, protecting children from recruitment into armed units, and rehabilitating children who have suffered from sexual violence.

In the spring of this year the security and humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo began to grow worse, especially in East Congo. The number of internally displaced persons has grown to 2.4 million, of whom nearly half are children under the age of 18. Close to a million children suffer from malnutrition and the country is being ravaged by a cholera epidemic. In areas seized by conflict, whole villages are destroyed and there are mass murders and rapes, abductions, and other human rights violations. In the province of North Kivu the burning of schoolhouses and teaching materials is a common occurrence, as is the recruitment of children into rebel ranks, which has prevented close to 60 000 children from getting an education.

The goal of UNICEF's activities in Mali is to ensure a safe environment and conditions for learning as well as food and health care for children that have suffered in conflicts and food crises. Due to the conflict, most of the schools in the northern part of the country are closed and opportunities to get an education are limited. Schools located in the southern part of the country are overpopulated due to internally displaced persons. The project aims to support opportunities for close to 360 000 students to continue their education.

Mali's political, security and humanitarian crisis remains serious and affects the entire Sahel region. The conflict between the north and the south that began at the end of 2011 and the food crisis of 2012 have affected a total of 5 million people in Mali. About 4.6 million people suffer from lack of food, and about 53% of them are children under 18. In addition, the flooding that began in the fall has made it much more difficult for children to continue going to school.

The Foreign Ministry is supporting the UNICEF education project in Afghanistan with 75 000 euros, the UNICEF project to support continuing school education in Mali with 50 000 euros, and the UNICEF humanitarian aid programme for helping women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 50 000 euros.

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