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UNICEF home The State of the World's Children
2002 Photo © UNICEF



VI. Leadership challenges

Poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS not only destroy children's lives, they also wreak havoc on nations.

© UNICEF/97-0083/Horner

Kong, one of the world's 10.4 million children orphaned by AIDS, now lives with his aunt in Chiang Rai province, Thailand.

Children suffer the most as poverty breeds injustice, exploitation, illiteracy and desperation. While some nations are brought to their knees by devastating poverty, an enlightened leadership understands that the most powerful weapon against national indigence is caring for children – by providing early childhood care, child protective services, education and health care.

Education, equality and strong health care are not single-issue solutions. They generate multiple dividends. Investing in children's well-being, for example, can reduce armed conflict as healthy children armed with education, not guns, can lead the world towards peace.

While nations struggle with poverty and conflict, no continent is spared the HIV/AIDS epidemic – one of the cruellest political and social problems in the world. Like other diseases, AIDS thrives in conditions of poverty, malnutrition, unsafe water and inadequate sanitation. This plague is destroying families, communities and nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Women and girls are the fastest-growing group of new HIV infections.

Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit. Here, life expectancy is plummeting. AIDS orphans overwhelm family networks, social services and health care institutions. Country after country watches as their futures wither away.

UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan speaks of the AIDS epidemic as a "crisis of governance and a crisis of leadership." He has proposed a multi-billion Global AIDS and Health Fund, the money coming from donor and developing countries as well as the private sector. Responses to the Secretary-General's call have come from governments, the private sector and the foundation world including $1 million from Winterthur Insurance, a Credit Suisse Group company and $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private donor to date.

"Leadership – at the global as well as the country level," says the Secretary-General, "is the single most important factor in reversing the epidemic."


For additional information on topics mentioned in the text, click on the links below:
H.E. Kofi A. Annan
The Global AIDS and Health Fund
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

For an extensive overview of the issues affecting children, see The State of the World's Children, 2000

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Next: Good for children, good for the world



'In brief'

Leadership from 1990- 2000
The United Nations Special Session on Children
The Global Movement for Children: 'Say Yes for Children'
The magic of leadership
Acts of leadership
Leadership challenges
Good for children, good for the world
It takes a leader to listen
The costs of children's silence
Every nation has a role to play