Billion children deprived despite rights treaty, UNICEF says
But fewer dying and more are going to school
UNITED NATIONS - Twenty years after the United Nations adopted a treaty guaranteeing children’s rights, a billion children are still deprived of food, shelter, or clean water and nearly 200 million are chronically malnourished, UNICEF said yesterday.
There are some bright spots - fewer youngsters are dying and more are going to school, the UN children’s agency said in a report issued on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ann Veneman, UNICEF executive director, said the convention “has transformed the way children are viewed and treated throughout the world.’’
“As the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the convention stands at a pivotal moment,’’ she said at a news conference.
“Its relevance remains timeless. The challenge for the next 20 years is to build on the progress achieved, working together to reach those children who are still being denied their rights to survival, development, protection, and participation.’’
The convention has the widest support of any human rights treaty, with ratifications legally binding 193 countries to its provisions. But not all countries are implementing its requirements, Veneman said.
Only two countries - the United States and Somalia - have not ratified it. The Clinton administration signed the convention but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification because a number of groups argued that it infringed on the rights of parents and was inconsistent with state and local laws.
Asked about the United States’ decision not to ratify, Veneman called it “frustrating’’ but said President Obama and US Ambassador Susan Rice “have expressed a strong desire to move the US in the direction of approving the convention.’’
Over the past 20 years, she said, more than 70 countries have used the convention to protect children and ensure their rights in national legislation.
The convention has also brought measures “to ensure that children are safeguarded from violence, abuse, discrimination, and exploitation,’’ Veneman said.
Still, the report said, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence annually.
The report noted that one of the convention’s most outstanding achievements was the improvement in child survival. The number of deaths of children under 5 decreased from about 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008 - a 28 percent decline, it said.
Other pluses were increases in HIV prevention and treatment for children and in the number of those receiving a primary school education.
In 2002, some 115 million children were not going to school, while in 2007 the number dropped to 101 million, the report said. While the gender gap has narrowed, girls are still losing out, however, it said.
Nevertheless, 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.’’
An estimated 1 billion children lack access to good health care, adequate nutrition, education, clean water, sanitation facilities, or adequate shelter.
More than 24,000 children under 5 die every day from largely preventable causes, according to the report.