Dear friends, partners, and children of Turkmenistan!
As my mission in Turkmenistan is coming to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the support and cooperation I received from the Government of Turkmenistan, international partners, and UN Agencies in Turkmenistan throughout this journey. It has been an honor for me to support the country in its efforts to protect and fulfil the rights of children for the past two years.
Looking back, this time was full of special milestones and joint achievements, as well as challenges which we tried to jointly overcome, and which I hope will contribute to further strengthening our long-standing partnership with Turkmenistan.
Since I arrived in 2019, we have jointly celebrated a number of important occasions for Turkmenistan, for UNICEF, and for our partnership. Turkmenistan has marked the 25th anniversary of Neutrality and is marking this year the 30th anniversary of its independence. UNICEF celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this year is celebrating 75 years since its creation. Jointly, we marked 25 years since the Convention was ratified by the country, and worked together on Turkmenistan’s report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the situation of children and the actions taken by the Government towards the realization of child rights as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We also jointly developed and started the implementation of the new UNICEF Country Programme for 2021-2025, which is the sixth such programme of cooperation with Turkmenistan. It aims at supporting the Government in meeting its commitments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of children, as stipulated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and further reaffirmed in the National Plan of Action on the Realization of the Rights of the Child and to achieve outcomes in four areas, namely governance for children; child health, nutrition and early development; social and child protection; and quality inclusive education. These occasions are significant, as they provide an opportunity to reflect on our work and reaffirm our commitments. These reports and frameworks are important as they will continue guiding our joint work for children in Turkmenistan in the years to come.
We have also continued our collaboration on ensuring that up to date information is available on the situation of children and families in the country, by collecting and analyzing reliable and internationally comparable data through the Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey, carried out by the State Statistics Committee with UNICEF’s technical advice. This survey not only helps the country to understand the situation of children and women, but also to measure progress and inform policies and programmes concerning child rights. And we are working to expand this collaboration with a number of additional surveys and studies related to nutrition, and to children with disabilities for example.
Similarly, early childhood development has remained one of the priority areas of our engagement. Both in terms of strategies and action plans, and in terms of providing technical expertise, sharing experiences and supporting our partners in continuously expanding the services available for young children and their parents, especially for the ones which may require additional care and support. The visit to the Early Intervention Department of the Scientific and Clinical Center for Maternal and Child Health, by his Excellency, the President of Turkmenistan Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov in June showcased the critical work of the center and the many related professionals in providing services for the youngest children and helping them develop and thrive.
There have been many other important milestones – ranging from the partnerships with the Office of the Ombudsperson and Mejlis on raising awareness on the rights of the child, to our work with the Ministry of Education on early learning and environmental education, and from the groundbreaking work on social services with the Ministry of Social Protection to the engagement with the Inter-Ministerial Commission on Ensuring Turkmenistan’s Compliance with International Obligations in the Field of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the Institute of State, Law and Democracy, and all relevant partners on child protection and juvenile justice.
Of course, there have also been challenges which we have worked to jointly overcome. The most important of them all is of course the global COVID19 pandemic which has impacted all our lives. We had and still have to prioritize our joint work to keep children and families safe and healthy, to support them, and to build back a better world for children. This global pandemic has impacted children’s survival, health, well-being and education both directly and indirectly, through the economic crisis which followed. UNICEF has worked with government partners and our UN sister agencies to develop and implement the two national plans addressing the impact of the pandemic, the Country Preparedness and Response Plan and the Socio-Economic Response Plan, and to ensure that the needs of children and their families are well reflected and addressed.
In the framework of these plans, UNICEF collaborates with State Committee for Radio and TV in delivering prevention messages to children and their families through TV spots and animations, as well as through UNICEF channels. We engage with national media to equip them with knowledge and skills to report on the pandemic and on the most effective prevention measures, as well as on vaccines. UNICEF works with the Ministry of Health and Medical industry to ensure uninterrupted supply of routine vaccines for all children, as well as strengthening the capacity of hospitals to treat children with respiratory infections. We support the Ministry of Education in providing hygiene education to all school children, and introducing digital and distance education. And the development of community-based social services support which is led by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection with the support of UNICEF and other UN agencies is expected to help to address the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on vulnerable families and their children.
Work in all these areas and beyond of course continues to this day, as the pandemic unfortunately still impacts all our lives. I wish Turkmenistan to overcome the challenges of this time and to continue investing in education, child protection, health and nutrition, and water and sanitation to build back a better future for all children. UNICEF will continue to accompany Turkmenistan in these efforts.
Certainly, all of this would not be possible without the tireless efforts of our partners in the Government, civil society, media, academia, among international organizations and diplomatic missions and, of course, the hard-working team of UNICEF in Turkmenistan. Thank you to all for your support and commitment to our joint mission to help children survive, stay healthy, learn, and develop to their fullest potential!
Apart from work, my stay in Turkmenistan has been made such a special one through meeting and becoming friends with the exceptional people of this country, and discovering the beauty and history of its landscape and culture. I have also had the pleasure to meet some of the children and young people of Turkmenistan – their energy, enthusiasm, and desire to learn has truly impressed me.
To conclude, I would like to wish the people of Turkmenistan good health, well-being, happiness, and success! Your kindness and hospitality will always remain in my heart.
And to the children of Turkmenistan: You are now beginning a new school year, and I wish you all the success in your studies. Never stop learning, work hard, but also enjoy and play, and be kind to each other!
Köp sag boluň, we geljekde görüşýänçäk!! (Thank you so much, and until we meet again)
UNICEF Representative in Turkmenistan