With a warm smile, resonating voice and a desire to make a difference, famous Swiss actor and Spokesperson for Vulnerable Children for UNICEF Switzerland, Anatole Taubman, journeyed throughout Rwanda to discover the hopes and dreams of Rwanda’s children.
“I was overjoyed, enriched, shocked, saddened, uplifted – a complete rollercoaster of emotions – during my visit in Rwanda,” Taubman said.
“That over 100,000 children still live all by themselves, that nearly 400 children die each day from preventable causes and that some 80% of all diseases that affect Rwandans are waterborne were facts that just blew me away,” he explained.
Taubman continued: “But I am extremely happy to see with my own eyes how UNICEF is helping the Government of Rwanda make communities fit for children, especially the most vulnerable and that makes all the difference.”
During his four-day visit, Taubman, who was accompanied by a film crew and the Executive Director of UNICEF Switzerland, Elsbeth Muller, met with former child soldiers, family headed children, children in refugee camps and children who were part of Rwanda’s 200 model “Child Friendly School” network.
“I was impressed by what was being done in Muhura (Eastern Province), with local authorities, AVSI and UNICEF to ensure that vulnerable children were being supported and included in a wider child protection network,” Taubman noted.
“I was amazed to see how Child Friendly Schools can make a difference in learning, but most of all I was staggered by the challenges children still face,” he added.
While Rwanda has experienced a remarkable recovery since the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, along with declines in both maternal and child mortality and improvements in net primary enrolment, challenges remain.
Rwanda today is Africa’s most densely populated country – nearly half of its citizens are under the age of eighteen. And while poverty appears to be declining, 60 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line (HDI 2009, UNDP). Nearly half of all children under five are chronically malnourished, access to sanitation remains problematic and natural disasters occur frequently.
UNICEF supports national efforts to promote equity and strengthen child survival, development and protection systems and to ensure that the most vulnerable have access to basic social services and social protection systems.
The Swiss National Committee for UNICEF has financed many of these programmes since 1996 and remains one of UNICEF Rwanda’s strongest partners, including one of its top ten donors.
The footage of Taubman’s trip to Rwanda will be aired on Swiss TV to raise awareness about both the successes and challenges facing Rwandan children.