1 Child Out of 12 in World Dies Before 5th Birthday

U.N. Report Sees Slow Progress in Health Care

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ROME, SEPT. 14, 2001 (Zenit.org).- One child out of every 12 in the world will not reach his 5th birthday, a new UNICEF report says.



The "World State of Children 2002," published Thursday, was to be the object of the U.N. General Assembly´s special summit, originally scheduled for next week. The meeting has been postponed because of the attacks on New York. It might be held in the first quarter of 2002.

The U.N. report on children focuses on the unfulfilled commitments of the last decade.

Most child deaths are from avoidable causes, the report says. One child out of every 4 lives in conditions of abject poverty, and a total of 149 million children are undernourished.

The report appeals to governments and international institutions to place "the rights and welfare of children above other concerns."

"Whoever does not fulfill this commitment will also have to render an account," the report adds. "To ensure the rights and welfare of children is the key to sustainable development in a country, and to peace and security in the world," UNICEF warns.

While the report acknowledges that debt-relief measures for 22 poor countries have helped, it emphasizes that the more-developed countries have not fulfilled their commitments.

"The bilateral assistance that industrialized countries offer is inferior, by some $100 billion annually, to what those governments committed themselves to provide," the report contends.

Only five nations -- Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Luxembourg -- allocate 0.7% or more of their gross national product to development aid, an old but unfulfilled commitment of the majority of industrialized countries.

The report also reviewed the objectives set at the 1990 summit on children. One such objective was to reduce the death of children below 5 years of age by 33%; in fact, the rate has been reduced by 14%, the report says.

Successes are spotty. Currently, the infant mortality rate is 81 out of every 1,000 born alive; a decade ago, the figure was 94 out of 1,000. Maternal mortality, however, has not decreased, the report says.

Vaccinations have increased, but AIDS is a terrible threat, especially in Africa, it notes. In three countries -- Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa -- AIDS is responsible for half the number of children´s deaths, it says.

In 1990 malnutrition affected 32% of children in developing countries. Now, 27%, or 149 million children, are undernourished, the report says.

There are still 1.1 billion people without potable water, a service that 82% of world population enjoys (3% more than in 1990). There is also slight improvement in access to health care -- 60% of the world´s people have access to this service.

More children are in school: 82% are in primary school, versus 78% in 1990. Adult illiteracy has decreased in the same proportion.