Sat, 26 Feb 2000

Unicef to provide $28m in aid for RI children

PURWOKERTO, Central Java (JP): The United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) plans to provide a total of US$28 million this year to help Indonesian children.

The Unicef representative for Indonesia and Malaysia, Stephen J. Woodhouse, told journalists on Thursday that donor countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Norway, Australia, Japan and some world-renowned companies, had agreed to take part in the aid program.

"(But) we have collected only about $13 million until now," he said, adding that last year Unicef provided $25 million to deal with malnutrition among children in Indonesia.

Woodhouse was in Purwokerto to attend a ceremony marking the Indonesian-Unicef cooperation agreement.

Unicef will focus on children in West, Central and East Java, West and East Nusa Tenggara, South Sulawesi, Maluku and Irian Jaya.

"The eight provinces deserve the aid," he said.

The agreement covers five substantial programs: maternal and early childhood care; basic education for all; children in need of special protection; policy development and advocacy and emergency support.

He said on Thursday that malnutrition levels among Indonesian children were alarming, particularly since the economic crisis hit the country in 1997.

Repeating his earlier statement, Woodhouse warned Indonesia of the possibility of losing a generation of children if children's health and education were not sufficiently tackled.

"About one-third of children under five years old, or almost eight million children, are malnourished. This is very serious and needs serious care from all Indonesians, including the parents," he said.

Woodhouse criticized Indonesian fathers who always set aside money to buy cigarettes, while their family faced financial problems at the same time.

"The money for a pack of cigarettes could be used for eggs or other healthy food for the children."(45/sur)