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Inner City Press Podcast --

UNICEF Appeals for Iraq, Explains Mozambique, Snoop Dogg at Arms-Length

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, May 23 -- In Iraq, only 30% of children now go to school on a regular basis, down from 75% two years ago, according to the UN Children's Fund. UNICEF on Wednesday announced an appeal for $42 million for Iraqi youth in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

   In fact, the launch was shifted at the last minute from New York to Amman, Jordan, with the involvement of Queen Rania. UNICEF's briefer in New York, Daniel Toole, said that now Syria and Jordan recognize their need for international resources to deal with the spill-over from Iraq, and that the involvement of Jordan's Royal Family is particularly important.

            Inner City Press asked about report that Jordan is making it increasingly difficult for those seeking to flee Iraq to cross over in to Jordan. Mr. Toole said he didn't spend time on the border, but flew in, but that UNICEF is aware of difficulties both leaving and entering Iraq.

[On May 21, Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN Bashara Ja'afari told Inner City Press that the UN's refugee agency, while helpful, has not been able to provide anywhere need the funded needed to serve those who've fled Iraq for Syria, click here to view the Q&A.]

            In light of the appeal for $42 million, Inner City Press asked if UNICEF is speaking with particular governments, and if the public can contribute. Mr. Toole mentioned speaking with the U.S. about the educational needs of Iraqi children now in Jordan, but emphasized that nothing has yet been committed. He said that the public can and should contribute, through one of UNICEF's 37 country committees.

   Mr. Toole mentioned by name the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, which had "blog"-announced his appearance. [In the U.S., one can call 800-4UNICEF; elsewhere, visit]. He said that people are aware of UNICEF, including through stickers placed on aid the agency gives, and that this is important since 30% of UNICEF's funds come from the general public (this hit 66% in the case of the  tsunami).

            That UNICEF has a higher profile than other UN agencies like the UN Development Program raises questions about the proposed "One-UN" system-wide coherence plan, under which UNDP would be deemed the focal point. Mr. Toole said that while there is a UN Country Team in Iraq, their strategic plan is not yet ready, and so UNICEF went forward with its appeal.

UNICEF delivers water in Iraq, Snoop Dogg not shown (see below)

News analysis, Mozambique, Snoop Dog and UN agency round-up: Realistically, it is hard to imagine UNICEF or the World Food Program taking a back seat to UNDP, in fundraising or anything else. Even in terms of providing information to journalists, UNDP lags behind. On May 22 at a press conference on the same rostrum from which Mr. Toole spoke on May 23, UNDP committed to provide information about its claimed biodiversity programs in North Korea. More than 24 hours later, neither than or other related questions posed by email -- some several weeks old -- have been answered. [Past deadline, 30 hours after the request, responses on UNPFII and Nepal were received, a welcome and hopefully not one-time-only change, but still nothing on Georgia or Timor L'Este or on briefings by Messrs. Dervis or Melkert.]

            UNICEF, on the other hand, while still asking for time on a question from earlier in the week, has provided data on child soldiers in the Congo (which we will report elsewhere), and a description of its programs in Mozambique. For comparison's sake, UNICEF's country representative in Mozambique, Leila Pakkala, is married to UNDP's (non) resident representative to North Korea, Timo Pakkala. Questions to and about Mr. Pakkala have not been responded to, despite or because of his involvement in the financing that is now subject to a 90-day urgent audit Ban Ki-moon called for 124 days ago. While UNICEF, on alert to the Timo connection, limited its responses to written summaries of certain Mozambican issues, at least UNICEF responded. Inner City Press asked:

Regarding Leila Pakkala, the interview request is made, certainly without disregard for UNICEF's work in Mozambique, but also [hopefully] in preparation of a piece about this fascinating United Nations (system) couple, Timo until recently in North Korea, Leila in Mozambique, how they met (in Iran), religious elements, etc.. We understand that Timo is now in Palma de Mayorca; whether the suspension of UNDP's programs in North Korea might, on the human level, create more time together for the Pakkalas is the type of quirky mini-portrait which Inner City Press at times likes to do.

  On the Mozambique-specific issues, we'd for example like to ask about the arms depot explosion in Maputo in late March, and Ms. Pakkala's comments about unexploded munitions -- are there still unexploded munitions about? How did UNICEF's public education campaign work? Likewise, we'd ask for updates on the floods and their impacts on children, and on a problem she discussed in 2005, of parents resisting registering their children.

            While ignoring or implicitly declining the interview request, UNICEF responded:

Dear Matthew, please see below information on your questions sent by our Mozambique office.

1. Weapons depot explosion in Maputo:
Official sources report that unexploded ordnances (UXO) have been removed from areas affected by the Paiol explosion. Authorities continue to respond to specific reports of possible small UXOs.   Mine risk education activities were carried out by local organizations and Protection Cluster partners, including Handicap International, Rede Came, Reencontro, IND, Save the Children and UNICEF. Interventions focused on tracing, registering and reintegrating separated children, social mobilization and Mine Risk Education (MRE) through the development of leaflets with basic messages for distribution in communities and school based sensitization activities and psychosocial support for families and affected populations in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.  No post-explosion UXO injuries or deaths have been reported to date.
All children separated from their families as a result of the Paiol explosion have been reunited with caregivers through the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare with the support of UNICEF and other Protection Cluster partners.
A two page briefing note was developed by Education Cluster partners, the Ministries of Education, Health and Women and Social Action for distribution to teachers and Ministry of Education staff to provide basic guidance on how to address psychosocial concerns of children in the classroom, with additional information on where to go for additional support. Support by teachers was immediately set in place as part of the local school curricula.

2. Floods situation... information on the humanitarian response to the floods and the cyclone is available on our web site at

3. Birth registration:
Data collected by the Government of Mozambique in 2003 revealed that 94 per cent of children under five were not registered. In addition, 80 per cent of orphaned and vulnerable children did not have birth registration according to a study conducted by the Ministry for Women and Social Action in 2004 in the five central provinces most affected by HIV AIDS.
Over the last several years, the Government has made a concerted effort to increase access to birth registration with support from UNICEF. In 2004, a National Plan of Action on Birth Registration was developed with the aim of decentralizing birth registration services and raising public awareness of the importance of birth registration with a specific focus on orphaned and vulnerable children.
The Implementation of the Plan of Action on Birth Registration by the Ministry of Justice is expected to result in the registration of 3 million children under the age of 18, using both mobile brigades and fixed registration agents by 2008.
The Plan aims to clear the backlog of unregistered births and test effective mechanisms for the routine registration of children closer to communities. The Ministry of Justice has begun increasing the range of registration agents and training on registration procedures has been provided to teachers, health workers and particularly to members of communities and local administration, with the involvement of Provincial and District governments.
In 2006, more than 1 million children were registered, which represents approximately 10% of children nationwide. This includes 90,309 orphaned children.
Districts covered in 2006 are:

Nampula: Muecate (45,314) e Moma (154,237),
Manica: Gondola (65,000) e Bárue (58,000),
Cabo Delgado: Chiúre (83,000) e Montepuez (40,039)
Zambézia: Milange (175,083) e Maganja da Costa (126,876)
Niassa: Nipepe (12,846) e Mecula (9,447),
Tete: Moatize (25,000) e Cabora Bassa (23,886)
Gaza: Chicualacuala (12,500) e Xai-Xai (62,062)
Inhambane: Homoíne (31,793) e Inharrime (22,710)
Sofala: Gorongosa (23,000) e Nhamatanda (38,000);
Provincia de Maputo: Matutuine (2,322) e Manhiça (1,200).

            Note to UNDP: other than the ignoring / declining of the interview request, that is how a question can and should be answered by a UN agency. And if there is less transparency at UNDP, it is entirely appropriate that UNICEF and others make their own appeals for emergency funds.

            Which brings us to the last point in this round-up. On May 21, Inner City Press asked UNICEF for "information about who paid and how the reported $150,000 performance fee [for Snoop Doggy Dog] for benefit for UNICEF on April 17, 2007, at Cipriani Wall Street (see NY Post of April 19, 2007)."

            UNICEF replied that "this was not a UNICEF run event. Cipriani organizes a concert series each year and this year, the US Fund for UNICEF was the beneficiary.  We didn't incur any costs."

            But if UNICEF is directing prospective individual donors to the US Fund for UNICEF, it might have been important in the short term to respond to the New York Post so that readers were aware that the incident described, in which the toasted rapper Snoop Dogf refused to perform despite the $150,000 fee, was not directly attributable to UNICEF. The NY Post item ended up being re-reported in England, Houston and even Korea, as well as Fox, which reported that Snoop Dogg

"also insisted that 10 members of his personal posse be flown over first-class, and at the last minute almost didn't attend the concert, as his dressing room wasn’t decked out with an Xbox for playing video games. 'We finally found someone who lent us their kids' Xbox,' an insider told Page Six. According to the paper, Snoop and his sidekicks were an hour late making it to the stage, which meant that the Pussycat Dolls (who were paid $300,000 to perform) were forced to speak, and consequently thanked "Unicel" instead of UNICEF. 'The idea that organizations pay and pamper these already rich people is disgraceful,' said Mia Logan, a New York mother whose 3-year-old daughter is suffering from a severe heart condition. 'If stars need to benefit financially, then it's obvious they have no interest in the cause. Just think how many lives could be saved with that money instead.'"

            In the longer term, if at stated at Wednesday's press conference with regarding to putting UNICEF stickers on aid, UNICEF is focused on its brand, not all benefits... provide a benefit.  The same NY Post, on February 6, 2007, quoted

"UNICEF spokeswoman Lisa Szarkowski [that] celebrities are often a vital, invaluable part of raising public awareness. And she concedes that the hierarchy of humanitarianism can be just as ruthless as that of any casting director or nightclub doorman. For years, she has been trying to book longtime activist/UNICEF ambassador Mia Farrow on various talk shows to discuss Darfur - but no one wanted to book her, because she lacks pop cultural currency."

            So, Mia Farrow, Queen Rania or Snoop Dogg? Whatever gets the job done. But keep doing the job...

    Again, because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540