20 November 2009

Welfare of world's children improves

Twenty years after the UN adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights, fewer children are dying and more are going to school - but 1 billion still lack services essential.

Twenty years after the UN adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights, fewer youngsters are dying and more are going to school - but an estimated 1 billion still lack services essential to their survival and development, UNICEF said.

The UN children's agency issued a special edition of its annual report on The State of the World's Children on the eve of Friday's 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to spotlight the treaty's achievements over the past two decades and the challenges ahead.

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.

The convention has the widest support of any human rights treaty, with ratifications legally binding 193 countries to its provisions.

Child survival increase hailed
Only two countries - the United States and Somalia - have not ratified the convention, though have said they intend to.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman said the convention "has transformed the way children are viewed and treated throughout the world."

Over the past 20 years, more than 70 countries have used the convention to incorporate codes protecting children and ensuring their rights into national legislation, and efforts to protect children have expanded, the report said.

UNICEF said "one of the most outstanding achievements" is the increase in child survival.

The number of deaths of children under age five has dropped from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008 - a 28% decline, the report said.

Another plus is the increasing number of children getting a primary school education.

One million kids still deprived
In 2002, some 115 million children weren't going to school while in 2007 the number dropped to 101 million - and the gap between the number of boys and girls getting an education has narrowed, the report said.

But UNICEF said children's rights are far from assured.

"It is unacceptable that children are still dying from preventable causes, like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition," Veneman said in a statement.

"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."

According to the report "an estimated 1 billion children are still living with one or more forms of material deprivation."

Millions of children, especially in Asia and Africa, lack access to good health care, adequate nutrition, education, clean water, sanitation facilities and adequate shelter, it said.

Recession impact could be far-reaching
"On average, more than 24 000 children under five still die every day from largely preventable causes," the report said.

"Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are estimated to experience violence annually," it said. "Around 150 million children aged five to 14 are engaged in child labour, (and) in excess of 140 million under-fives are underweight for their age."

UNICEF said climate and population shifts threaten recent advances in child rights and the convention's 20th anniversary year has been marked by the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.

"There is a real danger that the repercussions of these shocks will have lifelong consequences that span generations, undermining efforts to advance children's rights for the coming decades," it warned.

Convention to be ‘guiding document for everyone’
UNICEF urged countries that have ratified the convention to assess the implications of all their actions and budgets on the rights of children, and to strengthen and enforce laws that favour child rights.

It called for the establishment of "a protective environment" for children whose rights are threatened.

"The great challenge for the next 20 years will be to unite governmental accountability with social and individual responsibility," UNICEF said.

"To make the vision of the convention a reality for every child, it must become a guiding document for every human being." – (Sapa, November 2009)




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