While spotlighting progress on child health, UNICEF cites need to step up efforts

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman

10 December 2007 – A new report issued today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) finds that considerable progress has been made in the area of child survival, while also pointing to the urgent need to do more to create a better world for millions of girls and boys.

Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children Statistical Review” is the sixth in a series of reports released by UNICEF, and contains comprehensive data on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the ambitious pledges made by world leaders to slash poverty, illiteracy and disease by 2015.

“The monitoring that UNICEF and its partners have undertaken reveals some remarkable progress,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, noting that, for the first time, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday fell below 10 million in 2006 – an important milestone in child survival.

The report, which comes on the eve of a major two-day meeting on children convened by the General Assembly, also provides comprehensive information on such indicators as birth registration, child labour and children affected by war.

Among other things, it reveals that the number of primary-school-age children who are not in school has declined from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2005-2006. It also finds that, while the pace of change is slow, the harmful practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) has declined over the past 15 years, and that child marriage is becoming less common. In addition, new evidence suggests declining HIV prevalence in some sub-Saharan African countries, “although these trends are not yet widespread or strong enough to turn the tide,” said Ms. Veneman.

“Overall, its findings reinforce UNICEF’s conviction that the combined efforts of governments, international organizations, civil society, local communities and the private sector are making a difference and delivering results for children,” she stated.

Along with the good news, the report also reveals that an alarming number of children under-five – an estimated 143 million – still suffer undernutrition, with more than half of them in South Asia. In addition, more than 1.5 million children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases due to a lack of basic sanitation, combined with poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water.

Ms. Veneman stressed that much more needs to be done, especially with the 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaching. “We need to accelerate progress towards these goals and approach them with a collective sense of urgency. If we do so, we can help create a better world for girls and boys, and for generations to come.”

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