Young failed by inaction

17th December 1999 at 00:00

ARMED conflict, Aids and poverty are reversing attempts to improve the survival rate, development and protection of millions of children worldwide, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

At the launch of UNICEF's The State of the World's Children 2000 report, the charity's executive director Dr Carol Bellamy said a vacuum of leadership has allowed the merciless targeting of children and women in armed conflict, the frightening transformation of Aids into the number one killer in Africa and a devastating freefall in development assistance to the poorest nations.

She said that there are now 130 million children not in school in the developing world and an estimated 250 million child labourers aged five to 14.

But the report notes that may of the ambitious commitments made to children by the world's governments in the early 1990s have not been fulfilled.

"The world has the resources and experience to know what works for children. The time has come for us to put our words into action," Dr Bellamy said.

The report offers a chilling indictment of humanity's failure to match the gains in science and technology over the past century with an ability to provide peace and prosperity in the world's poorest nations.

During the 1990s, armed conflicts, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters have engulfed hundreds of thousands of the world's children, leaving them homeless or forcing them to flee their countries as refugees.

Despite unprecedented wealth in the global economy - world currency markets exchange nearly pound;1 trillion a day - more than 1.2 billion people struggle to survive on less than 62p a day, and more than 600 million of them are children.

Per capita income, adjusted for inflation, is lower today in 80 countries than it was a decade ago, the report said.

Aids has become a full-blown pandemic in Africa and is a growing threat to young people in south-east Asia. Five young people are infected with HIV every minute. By the end of 2000, 13 million children will have lost one or both parents to Aids.

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