UNICEF pledges to focus on child survival and other basic concerns in
New York, Dec 31 2003 12:00PM
The United Nations Children's Fund http://www.unicef.org (UNI-
CEF) today pledged to focus its efforts next year on helping the
young to survive in a world where they are often caught up in
war, ravaged by HIV/AIDS, imperilled by exploitation, and under-
serviced by society.
"Each of these issues alone poses heartbreaking challenges for
hundreds of millions of children," UNICEF Executive Director
Carol Bellamy said. "Together, they represent a global impera-
tive to do more for children in 2004."
Ms. Bellamy noted that nearly 11 million children die before
their fifth birthday each year, and tens of millions more are
left with physical and/or mental disabilities - solely because
they lack the essentials to thrive. Measles, malaria and diar-
rhoea are three of the biggest killers, yet all are preventable
HIV/AIDS has orphaned 14 million children, 11 million of them in
sub-Saharan Africa, she added. By 2010, the number of children
in that region who have lost parents to AIDS is expected to have
risen to 20 million.
In the last decade alone, she continued, more than 2 million
children have died as a direct result of armed conflict, and
more than 6 million have been permanently disabled or seriously
injured. An estimated 20 million children have been forced to
flee their homes and more than 1 million have been orphaned or
separated from their families.
Abuse, exploitation and violence extinguish the childhoods of
hundreds of millions of children, with 246 million working, 171
million of them in hazardous conditions. Some 1.2 million are
trafficked every year, and 2 million, mainly girls, are believed
to be exploited through the commercial sex trade. At any given
time, over 300,000 child soldiers, some as young as eight, are
exploited in armed conflicts in over 30 countries around the
Ms. Bellamy also charged that too many governments - in both
rich and poor countries - fail to recognize that investing in
children means investing in the future of their countries.
Education is the single best way to tackle all these problems
over the long term, she added. "By making sure that all boys and
girls get a basic education, we will not only give them a chance
of growing into independent adults who can protect their own
health and rights, but we will give the next generation of chil-
dren a better chance of escaping a life of poverty and hard-
ship," Ms. Bellamy said.