Sixty Percent of Primary Age Children Not Enrolled

News  All-Africa News. Thursday, 23 May 2002.

United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks

UN calls male and female circumcision a cruel and harmful practice

Guinea-Bissau faces a daunting task to improve children's well being. While national immunisation coverage has improved, its 40 percent primary school enrollment was decreasing, the  External link UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR) reported on Wednesday.

60 percent of school age children were not attending school, the rate of school dropouts was high, adequate health services were not available, and 90 percent of the health budget was from external financing, the report to the child rights committee of UNHCHR said.

National immunisation rose from 37 percent in 1986 to 60 percent in 1993, the report said, but traditional practices including early marriages and circumcision of boys and girls were causing serious problems for children and women.

Girls are compelled to marry while still adolescents - 13 to 14 years old. Circumcision of boys aged 9-13 and girls 7-12 years, among the Fula and Mandinga ethnic groups are the most cruel and harmful practises. There are no effective measures at the national level to eliminate them, the report said.

Guinea-Bissau's Justice Minister Dionisio Cabi, told the committee that the country's 1.2 million people were among the poorest in the world, with 55 percent of the population under 18 years of age. The minister said the government had recognised the needs of the social sector.

Military and political conflict in 1998 and 1999 destroyed the infrastructure in the country including schools, hospitals and roads. Mainly affected by this destruction were children and women, Cabi said, adding that strategies to address the problems were being developed, including ratification of international conventions.

The government, Cabi told the committee, had also identified drug addiction, prostitution, child labour, child soldiers and the presence of landmines in the country as the other priority action areas. The solutions lie in good governance, respect for human rights, the fight against corruption, and implementation of measures favouring the well-being of children, he said.

The UNHCHR child rights committee which reviewed Guinea-Bissau's implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and expressed concern, will conclude its session on 7 June. The country signed the convention on 26 January 1990 and ratified it on 20 August 1990.

The report on Guinea-Bissau is available at  External link


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