Clean water, basic toilets, good hygiene practices and an emphasis on early childhood care and education. All basic human rights that are not only lifesaving, but essential to starting young lives off on the right track. Made possible by the ongoing partnership between UNICEF Aotearoa and the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT), the Aroha Partnership will concentrate on; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Early Children Care and Education (ECCE). These core programmes are the platform in which to elevate the livelihood of children and their communities throughout Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu & Timor-Leste.
The programmes of work in each country are in line with UNICEF’s global strategy to improve access to WASH and ECCE in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, and UNICEF is not only a world-leader in these sectors, but also has a proven track record.
“We are excited to partner with governments in the Asia-Pacific region to deliver results,” says Hannah Stewart, International Programmes Manager of UNICEF Aotearoa. “Improving access to clean water and education for all children will make a huge difference in the lives of children – both now and in the future.”
While each country within the Aroha Partnership have similar issues, their specific obstacles are greatly varied. There is no one size fits all solution, which is why this partnership will closely consult with local governments and communities. Working from within and together is how to find bespoke solutions that will lead to a brighter, sustainable future.
Kiribati is one of the most vulnerable countries in the Pacific when it comes to the impact of climate change. Especially its smaller outlying islands whose mere existence are threatened by rising sea levels. This restricts access to basic services and infrastructure, an issue already complicated by the island’s isolated and dense rural population. With early education being mostly privatised and unaffordable Kiribati needs schools that are not only accessible by means of travel but are also equitable. Through the Aroha Partnership new community pre-school locations will be established to prepare generations of children for their transition into primary school and beyond.
The densely populated Guadalcanal Province is home to 86 schools in the Solomon Islands. WASH facilities are crucial to a child’s schooling experience. Especially in an extremely isolated area that is prone to severe weather events such as droughts and floods. UNICEF’s framework will not only concentrate on adaptability to climate change but also around gender empowerment. The WASH & education systems will have an inclusive infrastructure that can be easily maintained so that girls in particular may have ongoing access to necessary sanitary products. This will minimise absenteeism and empower participation in class as those affected are given more control over situations that to most would not be considered major hurdles.
Though some areas of Vanuatu have access to clean potable water, it is not always available during the dry season. Like its neighbours, they are also prone to natural forces including cyclones, earthquakes, floods and droughts. Schools are commonly relied on as evacuation centres and sources of safe WASH facilities. Though with only 30% of school’s having access to safe drinking water, there is high risk of contamination and illness. It is because of this that UNICEF’s work will centre around the supply and improvement of WASH-related mobilisation, training, construction and monitoring. Whether it be during an emergency or day-to-day, these communities will be better prepared to endure these conditions and build a more enabling environment.
Timor-Leste is not only the youngest country within the Aroha Partnership, but one of the youngest countries in the world. Which is why UNICEF is delivering ECCE with an emphasis on training and mentoring. Especially in the more remote areas where there are significantly less pre-schools. By not only establishing pre-schools but funding and strengthening systems, operation and planning, schoolteachers & parents will be enabled to provide an environment that will empower and uplift their children. Early childhood care is what will nurture this young and growing country.
“UNICEF Aotearoa has long standing relationships and partnerships with each of the chosen countries. The needs in each country are significant and warrant ongoing partnership”. Stewart and her team are confident in the capability of UNICEF’s partners in each country and their capability to deliver positive outcomes for children. When asked what excited her most about the future, she said “that kids in Asia-Pacific will have access to water, sanitation and education – just like our own kids have here in Aotearoa.”
Ma tini ma mano ka rapa te whai
By many, by thousands, the work will be accomplished
(Many hands make light work)
It is because of this partnership and unity of strength that UNICEF and its many partners can deliver access to these basic necessities to those most in need.