Overspending on military short-changes children, UNICEF says

Overspending on military short-changes children, UNICEF says

More than half the world's 2.2 billion children are being deprived of maximum mental and physical health because some governments have chosen policies that intensify the impact of poverty, war and HIV/AIDS and reduce the chances of halving extreme poverty by 2015, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) chief says in a report issued today.

"Too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood. Poverty doesn't come from nowhere; war doesn't emerge from nothing, AIDS doesn't spread by choice of its own. These are our choices," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in London as she launched the State of the World's Children 2005: Childhood under Threat.

"When half the world's children are growing up hungry and unhealthy, when schools have become targets and whole villages are being emptied by AIDS, we've failed to deliver on the promise of childhood," she added.

These official choices minimize the chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed on at a UN summit in 2000 and designed to reduce extreme poverty by 50 per cent by 2015, she said.

"Estimated annual cost required to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015: $40 billion-$70 billion. World military spending in 2003: $956 billion," the 10th annual report says, by way of illustration.

Through analyses and statistics the report examines three of the worst factors reducing the chances for a satisfying childhood: poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the 55 civil wars and four international wars fought between 1999 and last year.

"For hundreds of millions of children, the promise of childhood laid down in the Convention on the Rights of the Child already appears broken," the report asserts. They do not inherit their right to a childhood of love, care and protection in a family environment, encouraged to reach their full potential."

The gross national income (GNI) per person in 2004 was $496 in sub-Saharan Africa and $511 in South Asia, compared to $1,426 in East Asia and the Pacific, $1,465 in the Middle East and North Africa, $3,311 in Latin America and the Caribbean, $2,036 in the countries in transition, and $28,337 in the industrialized countries.

The HIV prevalence rate ranged from 7.5 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, with 12 million of the world's 15 million AIDS orphans, through 1.1 per cent prevalence in all developing countries, to 0.4 per cent in the industrialized countries, according to the report.

While the world's life expectancy increased to 63 years from 56 years, the life expectancy in 18 sub-Saharan African countries dropped, it says.

"It does not have to be this way. We have an unparalleled opportunity to fulfil the rights of children," UNICEF says.