NEW YORK, April 9, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ — The U.S. Fund for UNICEF announced today the launch of a fundraising campaign to raise $1 million to bring quality healthcare and education services to all children living with disabilities throughout Vietnam, including many that may be affected by exposure to dioxin left over from the spraying of Agent Orange during the war.
All donations to UNICEF’s program will be matched dollar for dollar by a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation, which has been funding work that addresses the environmental and health legacy of Agent Orange/dioxin since 2000.
The funds raised will help UNICEF coordinate a community-based pilot intervention program in the south-central city of Da Nang, providing healthcare, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, as well as training to social workers, teachers and welfare workers.
Actress Tea Leoni, who is a U.S. Fund board member and who recently visited Da Nang, said: “As a mother, after seeing the pain of children and their families, I implore others to join this important campaign so that no child lives without the care and assistance so desperately needed.”
“We are thrilled to have developed a partnership with The Ford Foundation to make an impact in the lives of the estimated 1.2 million children with disabilities in Vietnam,” said Caryl Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “We are committed to building an environment where top quality services are available to every child in the country.”
UNICEF has a long history of cooperation with the Government in Vietnam and has been implementing successful programs in the country since 1975.
The exact number of children with disabilities in Vietnam is unknown, as many parents have never sought treatment for their children, enrolled them in school or inquired to see if they qualified for social support. As such, in order to have an accurate count of children that require assistance, as well as a clear understanding of their needs, UNICEF and its partners will first work towards identifying all of the disabled children in Da Nang.
Added Ms Leoni: “The situation for children with disabilities is extremely difficult. With few care options, many are confined to their beds with little or no prospects for their future. Families without assistance are relegated to their homes to care for their children — depriving them of the opportunity to work, earn a living or interact with their communities. Caring for children with disabilities is literally a 24-hour-a-day job.”
The community-based pilot program will provide a comprehensive package of services specifically designed to be inclusive of children with disabilities. This program will, include: training health workers and caregivers to properly monitor the health and nutrition status of children living with disabilities, developing water and sanitation facilities in schools that specifically focus on meeting the needs of disabled children, training social and welfare workers to better understand how to assist families caring for disabled children and supporting respite centers by providing rehabilitative aids such as wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs and more.
“Although there are already two respite centers in Da Nang, they serve just a fraction of the people living with disabilities in the area because many families are unaware of the services or find traveling to and from the centers too difficult a journey,” said Stern. “It is therefore essential to the program’s success that we educate the community about the resources that are available to them so that they can take advantage of these services.”
UNICEF will also work closely with the government to improve legal policies and standards that promote the inclusion of the rights and specific needs of children with disabilities. Where possible, the program will work to leverage existing structures, such as the Vietnam’s Women’s Union, in order to help prevent the exclusion of disabled people from the country’s national policies.
Vietnam is home to a disproportionately large number of people with disabilities (approximately 7% of the entire population), including many affected by exposure to dioxin. The majority of these are children, who are unable to care for themselves and therefore live with their families indefinitely. One-third of families with disabled children have never sought treatment for their disabilities while only one-fifth of disabled children use the proper rehabilitative aids such as wheel chairs, prosthetic limbs, or hearing aids. Only a small number of children access the social assistance to which they are entitled and the vast majority of disabled children in Vietnam do not finish primary school.
For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world’s leading international children’s organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing issues that affect why kids are dying. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about UNICEF, please visit http://www.unicefusa.org/vietnam
About The Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and Russia.
SOURCE U.S. Fund for UNICEF
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