UNICEF issues global challenge to world leaders attending Johannesburg Summit
JOHANNESBURG, NEW YORK, GENEVA, 30 August 2002 - UNICEF today issued a bold challenge to world leaders attending the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Noting that access to clean water can save the lives of millions of children, UNICEF's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, called on leaders to ensure that every school, in every corner of the world, be equipped with clean water and separate sanitary facilities for boys and girls over the course of the next decade.
"Achieving truly sustainable development means creating a world that is fit for children," said Ms. Bellamy, in her plenary address to the summit. "Something as simple as providing safe water and clean toilets in schools will not just help protect children from deadly diseases- it will keep millions of them, especially girls, going to school. And, making sure children get a quality basic education can help a single generation make a huge leap."
In her speech Ms. Bellamy said children are every society's most precious natural resource, and that investing in them is a virtual guarantee to achieving true sustainable development.
"Investing in children is one of the most farsighted decisions any leader, government or community can make," said UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "Investment in a child benefits the child, the family and the cause of sustainable development. It's not only common sense but it's based on sound economic sense, too."
Investing in children yields higher economic returns than virtually any other type of public or private investment. Studies that show an investment of $1 in comprehensive child development programmes has a $7 return on future cost savings.
"We all know about the cycle of poverty," said Ms. Bellamy.
"But we also know how to break the cycle. It means investing in
the comprehensive care of children, including health care, clean water,
adequate sanitation, education and protection from abuse. Healthy and
educated children become productive young adults. These young adults
later become healthy, educated parents and a true measure of sustainable
But as the world meets to discuss the critical issues of sustainable development in South Africa, six neighbouring countries in the region are reeling from cumulative shocks and crises that have put nearly 13-million people at immediate risk. More than six million of those at risk are children, and 2.4 million of them are under the age of 5.
"We must put urgency behind our commitments and action," said Ms. Bellamy, having just visited three of the six countries affected. "While sustainable development and a healthy human environment will benefit tomorrow's children, we must also stay focused on today's children as our first priority."
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B-roll on the drought in Malawi is available.