Actions at Gleneagles Have Potential to Accelerate Progress Toward MDGsNEW YORK, 1 July 2005 – The decisions which the G8 leaders take this week have the potential to reduce extreme poverty around the world and to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of children, UNICEF said today.
Recognizing the positive steps already announced by the G7 Finance Ministers to reduce the burden of debt, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that the decisions G8 leaders will make this week will be critical to the health and well-being of more than 1 billion children living in poverty, the 100 million excluded from school, and the 10.6 million children who die before age five each year.
“The steps the G8 is considering have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of children,” Veneman said. “By putting poverty and development at the center of their agenda, the G8 leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to help to realize the Millennium Development Goals. These vital goals focus on the needs of children to survive, to be educated and to be protected from the impact of HIV/AIDS. There can be no more important task.”
The additional resources which the G8 leaders can make available, translated into sustainable services focused on children and women, can help make child poverty history. UNICEF highlighted several cost effective investments that offer a powerful rationale for the release of new resources through improvements in debt, aid and trade:
• Child survival initiatives that use promising integrated-delivery methods to reach more women and children with basic health and nutrition interventions, including immunizations and bed nets for malaria prevention;
• Education, including school meals and functioning water and sanitation service at schools, with particular emphasis on getting and keeping girls in the classroom (an MDG goal for 2005). In particular, support for the elimination of school fees can dramatically improve attendance;
• AIDS prevention and treatment, targeted at halting the spread of HIV among young people and between mother and child, and initiatives to care for the millions of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS.
Citing UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report for 2005, Veneman emphasized that HIV/AIDS is having a particularly damaging impact on the well-being of children. Average life expectancy in several Africa countries has fallen from more than 60 years to less than 40 due to HIV/AIDS, and nearly 15 million children have lost one or both parents to the disease. Without dramatic action, this number will increase to an estimated 25 million by 2010.
UNICEF also estimates that more than 1 billion children suffer from severe deprivations associated with poverty – lacking such basics as shelter, sanitation, safe water, good nutrition, and access to school or health care. Every day nearly 30,000 children under age five die, most often from preventable causes.
“Reducing poverty is critical for children,” Veneman said. “That’s why action by the G8 is so important. But governments must step up and do their part, including even the poorest governments, because sustainable development is not possible without good governance.”
Reaching the Most Marginalized
UNICEF said special attention is needed for over 350 million children who through no fault of their own are living in 35 “fragile states,” where basic systems of governance and support have broken down, often due to armed conflict.
Major donors are often rightfully wary of supporting governments with poor track records of accountability and human rights, but for children in these countries international support can mean the difference between life and death.
“Children affected by extreme poverty need our help no matter where they live,” Veneman said. “Channeling funds through international institutions like UNICEF and the World Food Programme can deliver aid straight to the community level, where children need it most.”
The C8 Children’s Summit
“Investing in capacity at the local level, helping poor communities help themselves, and finding collaborative, innovative solutions to long-standing problems should be the focus of the Gleneagles meeting,” Veneman added. “Doing good is doable.”
The UNICEF chief also called on the G8 leaders to listen to the voices of young people themselves. Children from eight developing countries and four of the G8 countries are also gathering next week in Scotland for the “C8” – a children’s summit to give voice to the growing-up experiences of children themselves and the priorities they feel the G8 leaders should address.
The C8 children’s summit takes place just before the G8. Together the young people will draw up a manifesto that will highlight the issues they would like to see at the top of the agenda of the G8 leaders. UNICEF urges the leaders to listen to the voices of the children whose future is in their hands.
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For further information, please contact:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York: (+1 212) 326-7261
Gina Dafalia, UNICEF Media, London: (44 207) 312-7695
For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
5 July 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the C8 Children's Forum in Dunblane, Scotland.