Unicef program to improve Mindanao children’s protection and development

Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Unicef country representative, said Mindanao has always figured last in the national statistics on poverty incidence, infant mortality rate, net enrolment ratio, malnutrition, and maternal mortality rate.

The country’s poverty incidence, for example, stands at 34 percent but Sulu province doubled that figure at 68 percent. Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao also did not fare well with 61 percent poverty incidence rate, followed by Agusan del Sur at 58 percent and North Cotabato at 52 percent.

Records from Unicef noted an alarming high infant mortality rate of over 50 deaths per 1,000 live births in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Zamboanga del Sur as opposed to the national figure of only 29 deaths.

“In other parts, there are 92 or nearly a hundred infant deaths per 1,000 live births,” he said. We are aware that the disparity is not only between the provinces and the national government but also within the provinces themselves.”

The Unicef and local government officials have been holed up at the Marco Polo Hotel from September 12 to craft an action plan that will evolve from the Mindanao-wide annual work planning for the 6th Country Program for Children (CPC).

The planning will end on September 15.

Alipui said the program has a set target of cutting by half the rates of malnutrition, poor enrolment rate, poverty incident, and child deaths in Mindanao.

“By 2010, we aim to reduce the disparity by 50 percent compared to 2000,” he said.

 To do this, the Unicef has obliged the Philippine government to spend some 70 percent of the $60 million budget for CPC VI or about $42 million to go directly to the priority areas. Of the $42 million, 15-20 percent should go to the identified barangays.

“The most important phase in child-friendly movement is to reach the gap between the poorest and disadvantaged children, if we could do that we would have a socio-economic breakthrough in the whole nation,” Alipui said.

The local government units involved in the partnership for children in Mindanao are Davao City, Sarangani, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Sulu, Sultan Kudarat, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur, and Zamboanga del Sur.

Unicef and the local government units have opted this year to identify the barangays with “very poor status” on children indicators and pour in most of its resources to address the concerns.

Alipui said each of the LGUs would get from P12million to P15 million in grants to firm up their programs for children. The LGUs are also expected to hand out their own counterpart funds, depending on how big their budget is.

City Planning officer Mario Luis Jacinto said they identified 40 barangays in Davao City that would become the focus areas for the program. The disparity areas were chosen based on the minimum basic needs survey results, maternal and child health indicators, education and indicators on children in need of special protection identified by the Countrywide Programme for Children (CPC VI) this year.

“We are doling out P3 million each year for this,” he said, adding that the money does not cover staff salaries, logistics and labor.

An inter-agency committee headed by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, with the City Planning Office as the program coordinator and the City Health Office, Department of Education, City Social Services Development Office as members, was tasked to implement and monitor the progress of the program. (MindaNews)