Staff Reporter 

Congratulating UNICEF on its 75th Anniversary and for giving every child a fair chance in life, Health Minister and vice-chair of the National Commission for Women and Children, Dechen Wangmo, in her address, said that as a champion for the rights and wellbeing of children, UNICEF in the last 75 years has helped nurture, shape and change, the lives of children around the world and in Bhutan.

“The story of UNICEF is a story of our children,” Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said.

The Minister assured that the government is prepared to commit efforts and resources in addressing the existing challenges and turning them into opportunities through innovative interventions in collaboration with developmental partners.

In a regional report, “Reigniting Opportunities for Children in South Asia,” released today, UNICEF urged Governments across South Asia to urgently expand investments in basic health, education, and protection services for children and their families whose lives have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and other disasters.

The report highlights the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on the most marginalized of the region’s 600 million children. It states that unless rollbacks in critical health, immunization, nutrition, protection and education services are reversed, the worst consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic will persist for decades.

“The remarkable achievements our region has made in advancing child rights over recent decades are now at risk,” said the UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia George Laryea-Adjei. “If we fail to act, the worst impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt for decades to come. But by acting now, we can reignite opportunities and ensure every child in South Asia not only survives but thrives.”

The report also outlines the lessons learned and the opportunities that have been opened up by the pandemic which can now be leveraged into gains for all children. The impact of the pandemic on children was reiterated in a youth statement entitled “Our Future, Our Rights, Our Voices,” the outcome of extensive virtual consultations involving nearly 500 young people from all South Asian countries.

UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said the anniversary, which coincides with the 50th Anniversary of Bhutan’s membership to the United Nations, is an occasion to celebrate UNICEF’s partnership with the RGoB and to renew commitments in ensuring the wellbeing of children.

“For 47 years, UNICEF has worked closely with the RGoB and partners to ensure the wellbeing of every child. UNICEF remains committed to sustaining the progress made in the lives of children in Bhutan, to reimagine opportunities and to address challenges that threaten the wellbeing of children.”

The report also features the experiences of children from the region during the pandemic. Geeta Acharya, a grade 10 student of Damphu Central School in Tsirang shared that bridging the digital divide is an investment that enables children and young people to continue learning and preserve their hopes for a brighter life.

“Technology is meant to be empowering and democratic. But the reality of the digital divide revealed more than issues of connectivity. It exposed the poverty and inequality issues in our society, villages and homes. Education for many of us is the only hope to change our lives, and poor access to digital learning threatens to take away this very hope,” Geeta writes.

The report highlights the key actions needed to reverse the rollbacks in progress for children, and begin building a better future for every child in South Asia.