Brazil’s cabinet ministers, state governors, mayors, NGO and business leaders yesterday launched an unprecedented National Accord to improve the lives of some of the country’s most impoverished and excluded children.
Entitled “A World for Children and Adolescents”, the initiative will focus on providing support to poor children and families in Brazil’s Northeast or “semi-arid” region, launching a “Seal of Approval” that will be awarded to municipalities meeting a series of child-friendly criteria.
At the launch in Petrolina, state of Pernambuco, and Juazeiro, Bahia state, participants reviewed the dramatic situation prevailing in the vast northeast of Brazil – an area the size of Colombia – as well as concrete measures needed to improve the lives of some 11 million children and enable them to enjoy their rights.
Education, nutrition, culture, social and political participation, diversity and human rights were the major topics of the panels and debates.
Today, a concert will be held to celebrate the National Accord, with Unicef Goodwill Ambassadors Renato Aragão and Daniela Mercury. Daniela will perform a special song selection with tunes related to the semi-arid.
The concert will highlight the cultural heritage of the region and will be accompanied by popular and local artists and will talk about the responsibility of the rest of Brazil to help the region develop.
The “World for Children and Adolescents” initiative is supported by Brazil’s Federal Government, the governments of nine departments of the Northeast, Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo, a range of national and local organizations, as well as Unicef.
The Unicef Municipal Seal of Approval will encourage mayors to give top priority to children and youth and to adopt policies to reduce child mortality, child labor and illiteracy among adolescents.
Local authorities will also be recognized for promoting vaccination campaigns, prenatal care, increased school attendance, among other measures. The municipalities achieving the greatest improvements for children will be recognized by Unicef at the end of 2006.
Around 26 million people – 11 million of them children – live in the Brazilian “semi-arid” region, distributed in 1,500 municipalities in the departments of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Minas Gerais, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande del Norte and Sergipe.
Seventy-five percent of the children – more than 8 million – are living in poverty (the national average is 45 percent), and the mortality rate in 95 percent of the municipalities is higher than the national average.