Lana Al Wreikat has been an integral part of the UN’s relief missions across the Middle East and Africa for the past 20 years, and given her history in the region, Oman’s new Unicef representative is more than well equipped to comment on how the Sultanate is an example of how countries should aspire to be.
“For us, Oman is one of the very moderate countries that is taking a very positive stance when it comes to regional issues,” said Lana, who originally hails from Jordan. “This is highly appreciated because we know that this can advance the children’s agendas sub-regionally.
They are also setting a good example in terms of organisation, because they have excellent organisational systems, a good early-warning and early-action systems to respond to cyclones, floods and storms, because we’ve unfortunately seen the extreme effects of that, so we believe that this Unicef partnership with the government can go a long way in showing the other countries the kinds of systems that Oman has.
“The Muscat office was established in 1982, based on government request, because they wanted to have a separate programme for Oman, to come up with a programme that is evidence based,” she added.
“The positive role that Oman plays goes beyond just the humanitarian assistance they provide and the attitude they have, but also the solid systems they have in place.”
Lana also praised Oman’s commitment to improving the quality and healthcare being provided to children across the Sultanate.
“Oman is doing much better than the other countries in the region in terms of health and education, and if you look specifically in terms of progress against the Millennium Development Goals, Oman is a top achiever, in the context of high-income countries, and some of the unfinished business here deals with issues at a sub-regional level,” she added. “We will be working with people to get better data and evidence and to ensure that children are reached, to enhance the agendas of equity and equality.
“We have our country programme focused on early child development, children with disabilities, and education, for which we work with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development, and also the National Centre for Statistics and Information,” said Lana.
“We also engage with other UN agencies that have a mandate to serve the population here and meet their needs, but the focus here is at policy level in terms of capacity-building and structure-building.
“We’ve got the World Children’s Day coming up, so on that day, we are going to be working with the Ministry of Social Development to let them allow children to shadow some of Oman’s CEOs and ministers and interview them, so they know how things work in Oman,” she explained.
Unicef is working very closely with Oman’s government to further raise awareness on good child-rearing across the nation.
“We’re also launching campaigns on social mobilisation, with the key message being focused on child-rearing practices and children’s nutrition, education and so on, so we will be trying to work with the media to enhance the message,” said Lana. “We will be looking to enhance coordination to work with issues related to children with disability, so we will have a platform which will have all the people who tackle these issues together, so that there is an integrated solution to this, in terms of policy and integration with the Ministry of Social Development.
“For example, nutrition can be an issue because of the behaviours and the practices, so we have begun to coordinate on this with the Ministry of Health, and we will get the results in January, so this will give us solid data in terms of how we can prepare a programme for nutrition,” she added.
“We will also have to work hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Education to target schools as well, and try and spread the message as well as possible.”