NEW YORK, 22 July 2005 – UNICEF and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) last night signed a pledge to develop a long term partnership to benefit children in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The pledge ceremony was held between the two semi-final soccer games of the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup™ at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
Leaders from both organizations underscored the importance of sport and play in children's lives, especially in the developing world, as they committed to joining forces to harness the power of football on behalf of children in the region.
“UNICEF believes that sports and play must be part and parcel of every child’s life, girl and boy, advantaged and disadvantaged, talented and instinctive,” said Andres Franco, UNICEF Representative. “Play comes naturally to children, and is a powerful force to ensure that children, especially children in the developing world, realize their right to play.”
CONCACAF President, Jack Warner, reinforced this message adding, “As the most popular sport in the world, football has the potential to be a tremendous power for good, especially for young people. Through this relationship we will explore ways to harness the power of football to have a positive impact on the lives of children across this region.”
The snapshot of the situation of children in the Latin America and Caribbean region shows that there are a number of challenges, especially regarding HIV/AIDS and violence.
With an average prevalence rate of 2.3 per cent, the Caribbean region has the second highest prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, next to Sub-Saharan Africa.
Haiti is the most affected country in the region – 5.6 per cent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS.
Almost 10 per cent of all reported AIDS cases in Jamaica are among persons under 19 years of age.
Only 43 per cent of children orphaned due to AIDS in Honduras attend school, compared to 70 per cent of non-orphans.
Adolescents, especially females, are a group at increasingly high risk of contracting HIV. The number of girls between 15 and 19 years of age living with HIV/AIDS in Trinidad and Tobago is five times higher than among boys of the same age group.
In 2002 alone, 653 children were murdered in Guatemala.
Two thirds of victims of sexual crimes reported in Nicaragua in 2004 were children and adolescents.
28 per cent of murder victims in El Salvador in 2004 were boys between 10 and 19 years of age.
More than 2,000 Honduran children were murdered between 1998 and 2002.
UNICEF works with a broad range of sporting partners including with FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and the Asian Cricket Council, to build a world fit for children through sport.
The final will be held this Sunday, when young soccer players - in t-shirts with the organizations’ logos emblazoned on them - will lead finalists onto the field. Most of the children are participants in the New York Scores soccer programme, which introduces soccer to children in New York City.
“Play and sports give children an important basis for the future,” said Franco. “And when children learn fair play, team spirit and radiate good health, ultimately society benefits.”