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UNICEF Report Highlights Gains In Child Health, While 1B Still Lack Essential Services

A special edition of UNICEF’s annual State of the World’s Children report, released 20 years after the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, shows that “fewer youngsters are dying and more are going to school – but an estimated 1 billion still lack services essential to their survival and development,” the Associated Press reports. The AP writes: “The convention ensures children of the right to a name, a nationality, an education, the highest possible standards of health and protection from abuse and exploitation. UNICEF said these rights are based on four core principles – non-discrimination, the child’s best interests, the right to life, survival and development, and respect for the views of children” (Lederer, 11/19).

According to UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, “the number of deaths of children under 5 around the world has dropped from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. About 84 percent of the world’s primary school age children are enrolled in school, and the education gap between boys and girls is closing,” United Press International reports. Still, Veneman said, “It is unacceptable that children are still dying from preventable causes, like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. … Many of the world’s children will never see the inside of a school room, and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect” (11/20).

The U.N. says that “24,000 children under the age of five still die every day from preventable disease and illness and that governments must not cut back on provision for children in times of financial hardship,” the BBC reports (11/20).

The U.S. and Somalia are the two nations that never ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to a second AP story. The news service writes: “The Clinton administration signed the convention but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because of opposition from groups that argued it infringed on the rights of parents and was inconsistent with state and local laws.” Veneman said that President Barack Obama and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice ‘have expressed a strong desire to move the U.S. in the direction of approving the convention,” according to AP (Lederer [2], 11/19).

Afghanistan Ranks As Most Dangerous Place For Child To Be Born

UNICEF’s report singled out Afghanistan as the most dangerous place to be born, according to Reuters. The news service writes: “Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world – 257 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 70 percent of the population lacks access to clean water, the agency said. As Taliban insurgents increase their presence across the country, growing insecurity is also making it hard to carry out vital vaccination campaigns against polio, a crippling disease still endemic in the country, and measles that can kill children” (Nebehay, 11/19).

AP Examines Biggest Child Killers

Diarrhea and pneumonia kill more children under age 5 “than HIV and malaria combined,” writes the AP in a story that examines attention and money allocated to fighting a variety of childhood afflictions. “Pneumonia is the biggest killer of children under 5, claiming more then 2 million lives annually or about 20 percent of all child deaths. AIDS, in contrast, accounts for about 2 percent,” according to the AP, which adds, “Diarrheal diseases received more attention in the 1980s and 1990s … but interest has waned or been diverted elsewhere, allowing them to creep back,” according to John Wecker of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (Mason, 11/19).