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AIDS, sexual exploitation threaten progress of child welfare in Asia – UNICEF

AIDS, sexual exploitation threaten progress of child welfare in Asia – UNICEF

Warning that AIDS and sexual exploitation jeopardized the progress made in improving child welfare in Asia and the Pacific, the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for concerted action to combat both problems.

“All the hard-earned gains for children in such areas as poverty reduction, education and nutrition will be swept away if we do not confront the HIV/AIDS threat with all our resources, courage and commitment,” Executive Director Carol Bellamy told the opening of the Sixth East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Children in Bali, Indonesia.

She noted the region’s extraordinarily high rate of child trafficking, largely for commercial sexual exploitation. More needed to be done to combat this business, which must “rank among the worst violations of child rights in our world,” she told the meeting, the first high-level conference on child welfare since the UN General Assembly’s special session on children in New York almost exactly a year ago.

Bringing together more than 200 participants, including senior officials from UNICEF, other UN agencies, donor governments, non-governmental organizations, and young people from 20 countries across the region, the three-day conference aims to map out a regional plan for children for the coming decade.

In her opening speech Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri noted that the data were depressing, with more than 10 million children dying globally each year before they even celebrated their fifth birthday, and she called on all nations of the world to work hard for the protection and well-being of children.

Ms. Bellamy stressed the importance of partnerships and participation by civil society as being key elements for rapid and sustainable levels of progress in implementing the special session goals.

The meeting features discussions of major development issues facing the region today, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic, maternal mortality, commercial sexual exploitation of children and child trafficking, nutrition, and education.