UNICEF chief: Financial crisis cannot justify letting children die

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Painful cuts to the Spanish development budget must not directly impact vital life-saving overseas aid, Marta Arias, the director of UNICEF-Spain’s social awareness campaigns, has told EurActiv.es.

“No crisis can justify the death of a single child anywhere in the world,” she said, in an exclusive interview. “Industrialised countries still have resources to maintain their cooperation as a central policy and they must do so.”

As Madrid battles to reduce its deficit, the country’s generosity has also shrunk. Between 2010 and 2012, its budget for development and cooperation aid plummeted by 67%.

Such cuts could jeopardize the continuity of Spanish flagship projects like one in the center of Manhiça Investigaçao em Saúde, which is currently developing a new malaria vaccine.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has committed itself to returning to the levels of pre-crisis cooperation if the situation in the country’s economy improves in 2015 or 2016.

Spanish cooperation spending has had a tangible effect. According to UNICEF, in Mauritania Spanish aid saved nearly 90,000 children from malnutrition in 2012.

In Bolivia, more than 230,000 children are alive today, thanks to better access to health services and sanitation. And in Mozambique, some 1.6 million children have received life-saving vaccination programs funded by Madrid over the last 20 years.

UNICEF wants to raise awareness about the benefits of this kind of international cooperation and is calling for a return to pre-crisis levels of spending as soon as possible.  

Recently, UNICEF-Spain launched a media campaign titled “We can't stop now” (Ahora no podemos parar).

“Our biggest challenge is to show the real impact of Spanish development aid on children in many developing countries - for example, on malnutrition in Mauritania, on public health in Bolivia and on child immunization in Mozambique,” Arias said.

The scope of the new UNICEF campaign, she added, was to emphasize that development aid was not theoretical or intangible but had a direct positive impact on thousands of people in the Third World.

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