TANNA Vanuatu/NEW YORK, 18 November 2004 Â? Children in the South Pacific country of Vanuatu are hearing radio broadcasts for the first time.
UNICEFÂ?s Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam was in Vanuatu early this fall for the launch of a UNICEF-supported programme that has brought a community FM radio network to life.
Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands. The vast distances between communities create ongoing challenges in reaching people in remote areas. The purpose of the project was to improve the spread of information, as well as to open new avenues of communication in a largely oral culture. Fifty percent of VanuatuÂ?s population of around 202,000 is under the age of 15 years.
In early 2004, the Community Radio Society of Tafea (CReST) began the process of setting up a community FM radio network for people who live in the province of Tafea, Vanuatu.
UNICEF Pacific sponsored the programme as part of a larger effort to enhance the educational media experience of South Pacific's students, teachers, parents, community leaders, and others.
After the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) project of Vanuatu Education and UNICEF supplied the station with two transmitters, the local board of trustees took control of the administration, programming, and direction of the station.
UNICEF and its partners hope the radio network will enhance communication and educational opportunities for all children in Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is part of the Pacific region, a large and culturally diverse area consisting of 22 sovereign states and dependent territories. Vanuatu is one of the areaÂ?s larger island chains with over 80 islands. Pacific island countries have achieved variable levels of development. Kiribati, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are at the lower end of the scale.
The entire regionÂ?s infant mortality rate has declined steadily in the region over the past decade. But in Vanuatu, along with Kirabati, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands, it is still high (between 37-63 per 1,000 live births). In Vanuatu and Solomon Islands the leading causes of death in children under the age of five years include acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria, perinatal complications and injuries. In Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Solomon Islands, child survival goals remain paramount.
UNICEFÂ?s programmes in Vanuatu focus on immunization and the improvement of girlsÂ? education.
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