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Young child survival and development

Despite strong economy, poverty and poor healthcare are still challenges

© UNICEF video
Children selling fruit on the streets of India.

By Kun Li and Maya Dollarhide

NEW YORK, 27 July 2005 – Half a billion people in South Asia are living in poverty and suffering from the effects of poor health, according to a new report released by Pakistan’s Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre.

The report ‘Human Development in South Asia 2004’ - which made its US debut at UNICEF House today - looks at the current health situation facing that region’s women and children in South Asian countries, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“We welcome this publication, which reinforces the centrality of people in all development policies and programmes, focusing on the health challenges. The statistics are shocking. One out of every three child deaths occurs in South Asia; two thirds of the malnourished children live in the region and infant mortality is still high,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah.

© UNICEF video
UNICEF Deputy Director Rima Salah speaks about the plight of children in South Asia.

The findings conclude that despite impressive economic growth in the region, the translation of this wealth to the general population has been stymied, leaving millions mired in poverty with inadequate health care.

This region’s children are at risk, as they are often hardest hit by poverty. Acute deprivation in the health, education, sanitation, water and shelter sectors are manifestations of the tenacious nature of South Asia’s poverty.

“In a region where high mortality and morbidity rates battle to rob children and women of their full potential every day, the focus on health could not be more appropriate or timely,” said Dr. Salah.

The report calls on all South Asian governments to examine how they can provide better healthcare to their citizens.

Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director of UNFPA and current member of the Board of Governors at the Mahbub ul Haq Human Development Centre, spoke about the lack of achievement in areas of health.

“South Asian countries are very much lagging behind in the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, especially in the area of heath of women and young children, and HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Sadik. “South Asian countries have the human and financial resources, but what is really lack is the political will. People who are the poorest are lack [health] services the most. And they seem to be the least equipped to demand these services.”

Supporters hope the report will alert policy makers on the situation and create a dialogue to action to create a framework to assist governments in improving the health and well-being of children and women in the region.




27 July 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li covers the launch of a crucial report on the current health situation facing women and children across South Asia.

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