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Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October 2009)

New York, 16 October 2009 - "Children who grow up in poverty face many obstacles that can prevent them from reaching their full potential. 

“Early childhood, in particular, lays the foundation for a lifetime.  Children who are chronically undernourished before their second birthday are likely to have diminished cognitive and physical development for the rest of their lives.

“Undernutrition diminishes the ability of children to learn and earn throughout their lives. Nutritional deprivation leaves children tired and weak, and lowers their IQs, so they perform poorly in school. As adults they are less productive and earn less than their healthy peers and the cycle of undernutrition and poverty repeats itself, generation after generation.

“Investing in better nutrition for children helps improve their lives and contributes to the development of their communities.  Research shows that every dollar spent on vitamin A and zinc supplementation for children creates benefits that exceed $17. 

Investments in education also provide benefits for children and communities. Experts estimate that one dollar invested in girls’ education provides a ten-fold return in increased productivity.

“Studies also show that educated adolescents are more likely to wait until they are out of their high-risk teenage years before starting a family and have healthier babies. The children of educated mothers have a 50 per cent better chance of surviving to five years of age than those whose mothers have little or no schooling.”

"Millions of children are still deprived of the means of acquiring a decent education. These children are more likely to live the rest of their lives in poverty.

“The cycle of intergenerational poverty must end. Investing in children’s health, education and protection is an obvious place to start.”

For more information:

Christopher de Bono, cdebono@unicef.org, UNICEF New York;
Tamar Hahn, thahn@unicef.org; UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, 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.



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