Unicef Logo and the text: Children Under Threat. The State of The World's Children 2005.

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©UNICEF/HQ04-0402/
Christine Nesbitt

Children Under Threat

Since the advent of the Convention the concept of childhood has never been stronger, clearer or more detailed. Yet childhood remains under threat. The powerful vision of children’s rights set forth in the Convention and reinforced in A World Fit for Children contrasts starkly with the actual childhood of most of the world’s children.

In several regions and countries some of the advances of recent decades in fulfilling children’s rights – such as reductions in child mortality rates, increased net primary school enrolment, lower numbers of orphans, and important strides in creating a protective environment for children – appear at risk of reversal from three key threats: poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS. Other threats to children’s survival and development persist because of poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS.

Figure 3.2 Figure 1.1: Poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS threaten child survival.
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  • Poverty is the root cause of high rates of child mortality and morbidity. The rights of over 1 billion children – more than half the children in developing countries – are violated when they are severely underserved of at least one or more of the basic goods and services that would allow them to survive, develop and thrive. One in five children in the developing world does not have access to safe water, and one in seven has no access whatsoever to essential health services. More than one in three children does not have adequate shelter, over 16 per cent of children under five lack adequate nutrition, and 13 per cent of all children have never been to school.


  • Armed conflict. As wars proliferate – and civilians become their main causalities – millions of children are growing up in families and communities torn apart by armed conflict. Many have been forced on to the front lines. Since 1990 conflicts have directly killed as many as 3.6 million people; tragically, more than 45 per cent of these are likely to have been children. Hundreds of thousands of children are caught up in conflict as soldiers; many are forced to become refugees or internally displaced persons, suffer sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, or are victims of explosive remnants of war.


  • HIV/AIDS. Worldwide, AIDS is already the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 49; in 2003 alone, 2.9 million people died of AIDS and 4.8 million people were newly infected with the HIV virus. Over 90 per cent of people currently living with HIV/AIDS are in developing countries, and although the problem is most acute in Africa, prevalence rates are rising in other parts of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS has led to increasing child mortality, dramatic reductions in life expectancy and millions of orphans.

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The Convention on the Rights of the Child [Web]

A World Fit for Children [PDF]

Human rights for children and women: How UNICEF helps make them a reality [PDF]

Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child -
Fully Revised Edition
[PDF]

Building a World Fit for Children [PDF]

We the children [PDF]


"If we really want to eradicate this disease [AIDS], if we really did see the problems this disease causes, we'd look straight into ourselves for the solution..."
by blue lagoon, 18, Micronesia

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640 million children in developing countries live without adequate shelter: one in three.

400 million children have no access to safe water: one in five.

270 million children have no access to health services: one in seven.

More than 121 million Primary-school-age children are out of school; the majority of them are girls.

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© UNICEF 2004