The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today released its State of the World's Children 2002 report, which identifies conflict, HIV/AIDS and poverty as the main obstacles on the road to ensuring children's rights.
According to the report, many of the goals of the 1990 World Summit for Children have not been met and much work remains to be done. Although significant progress has been made in reducing the mortality rate for children under five, the target to reduce such rates by one third was met in only 60 countries. The number of malnourished children in developing countries fell from 177 million to 149 million and the goal of eliminating iodine deficiency disorders by 2005 seems to be a realistic prospect.
Armed conflict, the report states, is one of the biggest roadblocks on the path to child rights. Between 80 and 90 per cent of those who die or are injured in conflicts are civilians - mostly children and their mothers. From 1990 to 2000, 2 million children were slaughtered, 6 million injured or permanently disabled, and 12 million left homeless because of conflict. The report suggests increasing social spending over military expenditure and using domestic resources for social development.
The impact of HIV/AIDS is also crushing the attempts of countries the world over to put human development and the rights of women and children first. In Latin America and the Caribbean alone, some 1.8 million people are living with HIV, including 210,000 new infections last year, while life expectancy figures are plummeting in sub-Saharan Africa, the region hit hardest.
Meanwhile, poverty, which forces half a billion children to live on less than $1 per day, also deprives 100 million children worldwide of the opportunity to attend school.
The UNICEF report calls for leadership from all continents and all sectors of society and emphasizes the need to give children the best possible start in life, to ensure that every child completes a basic education, and to involve children - adolescents in particular - in the decisions that affect their lives.
The official launch of the report, which had been initially scheduled to take place today in New York, was cancelled by UNICEF in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States.