By Joseph Serwadda
JUST a few weeks ago, I attended the Global Network of Religions on Children (GNRC) in Dar es Salaam in the company of His Eminence Yona Lwanga the Metropolitan of Uganda and His Grace Dr John Kakembo the Archbishop of the SDA in Uganda. While there, we teamed up with Hon. Loyce Biira Bwambale, Chairperson National Council of Children.
As an inter-faith network, the GNRC core value is: working for peaceful societies, communities and neighborhoods which in turn ensures that social justice, equality, respect and opportunity for all - regardless of class, colour, creed or tribe, are attained. GNRC-Africa vision is to awaken the peace traditions resident in the African culture with particular focus on the younger generation.
In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Tanzania President, Jakaya Kikwete, treated the delegates to a great and moving speech. In attendance was also former Tanzanian President, Ali Hassan Mwinyi.
"It is a statement of fact that where poverty is ended, children benefit. They are happy and grow to realise their potentials and ambitions in life. On the contrary, where poverty abounds, children suffer the most and all their hopes and aspirations are dashed. Indeed, poverty is the world’s biggest development challenge of our time. We must fight it and win; losing is not an option because the situation is not good at all," Kikwete lamented.
The UNICEF estimates that 22,000 children are dying each day due to a host of poverty related deprivations. About 67 million in the developing world do not attend school and around 300 million go to bed hungry every day.
The sad story does not end there as 650 million (1 in 3) live without adequate shelter; 400 million (1 in 5) have no access to safe water; and 270 million (1 in 7) have no access to health care services. Overall, out of 2.2 billion children on this planet, nearly half are severely deprived of at least one of the essential goods and services they require to survive, grow and develop to fulfilling adulthood.
So many children are losing their lives to easily preventable diseases or malnutrition, and others are being murdered in armed conflicts.
Tanzania has a fully-fledged ministry dealing with children’s affairs. It champions the formulation of policies, plans and programmes guiding action on child development in their country.
They have enacted laws protecting the rights of children, the National Child Development Policy (2008), the Child Act No. 21 (2009), the National Costed Plan of Action for Vulnerable Children (2007-2010), the National Policy Guideline for the Health Sector Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence (2011), National Education Policy (1995) and the National Health Policy (2010).
The President then quipped, "I am happy to mention as a result of these efforts, many indicators are showing that we are now making progress in reducing child poverty. For example, child enrolment in primary schools has reached 97%, which makes us well on track to reach the MDG target by 2015. Furthermore, between 1999 and 2010 child malnutrition has been on the decrease."
President Kikwete quoted the words of Bono, the lead singer of the U2 Band, “God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes, where the poor play house.
God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them".
Over to you, Uganda.
Writer is the Presiding Apostle, Born Again Faith in Uganda