The State Of
The World's Children
By Jeremy Lovell
The Full Report Here
Political leaders the world over are failing
the most vulnerable of their people -- children, the U.N. child rights
organization UNICEF said on Thursday.
Although child mortality
rates had fallen by one-fifth in the past decade, they remain far too
high due to a combination of grinding poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic
and widespread civil wars -- all either caused or neglected by national
"It is the
failure of leadership. It has become clearer year after year ... that
it is the failure not just in the poorest countries but some of the
richest countries too," UNICEF head Carol Bellamy told Reuters
in an interview.
is ... development assistance or debt or aid, these are also challenges
for the developed world," she said.
In its annual State
of the World's Children report "Childhood Under Threat" published
on Thursday, UNICEF said more than one billion of the world's two billion
children were being denied access to one or more basic services.
Globally, 640 million
children had no adequate shelter, 500 million had no sanitation, 400
million had no access to safe water, 270 million had no access to health
care services, 140 million had never been to school and 90 million were
"To not understand
the underlying causes of why children die today or why childhood is
robbed from children today would be in my view a moral failure,"
"It is not
a matter of saying 'if only we knew what to do'," she said. "We
know what to do. The challenge is to do it."
UNICEF -- which has been accused by some of focusing on rights rather
than simple child survival -- published a series of tables listing every
country in the world and comparing it according to child mortality,
poverty, education, HIV/AIDS, health and nutrition. (See www.unicef.org).
On under-five child
mortality, for example, Sierra Leone came out as the worst in the world
with 284 deaths per 1,000, while Sweden and Singapore were the best
at just three.
"We are providing
the data that ought to be used by everyone possible in advocating that
there ought to be more political leadership," Bellamy said.
The report also noted that while many countries had made great progress
in reducing child mortality, for a range of reasons several including
Iraq, Kenya and Zimbabwe had seen it rise sharply since 1990.
also made bitter reading at the start of the 21st century.
According to UNICEF
there are now 37.8 million people worldwide under the age of 50 carrying
HIV/AIDS, of whom 25 million or two-thirds are in sub-Saharan Africa.
At the same time,
of the 15 million AIDS orphans globally, 12.3 million or 82 percent
are in sub-Saharan Africa.
But Bellamy cautioned
that believing the entire problem was confined to Africa would be a
not limited to Africa. In fact the number of people infected may be
as great in Asia as in sub-Saharan Africa," she said.
Bellamy, who steps
down in 2005 after a decade at the helm of UNICEF, said she was proud
to be leaving behind her an organization at the height of its powers.
But with the certainty
that the Millennium Development Goals which include halving poverty
by 2015 are likely to be missed by a large margin, now was no time to
rest on its laurels.
"We know already
that on child mortality alone 98 countries will not reach it under present
circumstances," she said. "The pressure needs to be put on
now if there is going to be an acceleration to get even close to some
of these goals in 2015."
is not going to change everything. But there has to be a drumbeat, and
we want to be a part of that," she added.
© Reuters 2004.
All Rights Reserved.