Tunisia Progresses toward MDGs

30/6/2010 - UNICEF’s regional chief was in Tunisia, outlining some important successes and challenges. China has made great progress toward the MDGs (especially for education and women).

Tunisia could be dubbed one of the success stories of Africa. Even among North Africa countries it is doing quite well. The country has made significant strides in its pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. Tunisia has especially excelled on Goal #2 To Achieve Universal Primary Education.

Tunisia has greatly increased the number of preschools it has, having beneficial effects on early childhood education and development. As in many other countries, information technologies are being increasingly integrated into standard or traditional learning plans. Primary school enrolment an attendance is 96%. Often, statistics may misrepresent the actual success of investment in education; for instance enrolment rates only show which children attend school, and not the number who attend classes regularly or the number who graduate. These are important omissions for the denote problems with poverty (which may require the child to work instead of go to school) and teaching quality (such as rote teaching and language barriers).

Maternal mortality remains elevated in western Tunisia, though improvements have been made elsewhere in this regard and on the status of women in general within the country. A country-wide program designed to give girls protection against measles and rubella has also been implemented.

However, thousands of children remain in need of vaccinations for diseases such as Haemophilus influenzae (Type B) that is particularly harmful for young children. Tunisia’s under 5-mortality rate is 21 per 1000 live births—better than much of sub-Saharan Africa. To improve health care in the country, Tunisia is in need of higher numbers of gynaecologists and paediatricians to address the most vulnerable populations: pregnant women and children.

Ms. Sigrid Kaag (UNICEF’s Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa), which was in Tunisia this week, hopes to strengthen the country’s capacity for child promotion and protection. Ms. Kaag was received by Tunisia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamel Morjane.

UNICEF’s cooperation with Tunisia’s administration and development actors are imports, said she. “Tunisia is a key country in the whole region, given its assets and successes, particularly regarding women's status and child protection.”

One particular area for interest Ms. Kaag was the importance of ending domestic violence.