The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg attended the National Committees of UNICEF at its 54th annual meeting. With representatives of 36 nations in attendance, UNICEF-Luxembourg proudly celebrated its 30th year.
Maria Teresa brought attention to UNICEF’s work, especially in the field of HIV/AIDS, which the Grand Duchess works tirelessly for. She made an emphasis of that in her speech.
“Although so much has been done, it is essential to remain focused on the challenges ahead: one of them is the HIV pandemic as unfortunately the numbers are not decreasing.
“According to UNAIDS most recent report 2007, an estimated 33 million people are living with HIV. During that same year, 2.7 million new HIV infections were recorded.
“Although people from all walks of life are affected, HIV/AIDS is hitting hard at the most vulnerable sections of our society: it is the poor, the illiterate, the marginalized, especially women and children who bear most of the burden of the HIV pandemic. Mothers and children are being ‘infected’ or ‘affected’ by the AIDS virus in greater and greater numbers, every single day. Their situation is dramatic as a mother with HIV will not give up the responsibility of caring for her children easily.”
Maria Teresa talked about her role as UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children in 2007, in which she chose to focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and child soldiers. She explained how the two coincide.
“We all have to protect these children, as they are easy preys and victims of child abuse and exploitation through the horror of prostitution, children hard labor, enrolment into guerilla armies as child soldiers, where all too often the girls enrolled are used as sex-slaves.
“So what can we do?
“UNICEF is working with communities that provide an environment where children and their families are supported and protected, and where their rights are respected. It is my firm belief that without this community involvement there is little prospect that the programs can produce any tangible results. Strengthened social protection is needed to ensure that those affected by HIV can access services. Social welfare ministries, who are often mandated to provide support to children and families, have inadequate human, financial, and institutional capacity and also limited influence over government priorities and budgets, especially at local levels.”
Following her speech, the Grand Duchess attended the Castle Vianden official dinner for the 54th Annual Meeting of National Committees for UNICEF.