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Investing in children in the Islamic world

© UNICEF/2005/Markisz
UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, OIC Secretary-General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar at the launch of the landmark joint report.

NEW YORK, 21 September 2005 – A landmark joint report launched today gives a unique insight into the opportunities and challenges facing 600 million children across the Islamic world.

The report, entitled ‘Investing in the Children of the Islamic World’, says children can and should be the focal point for Islamic governments in their drive for greater unity and solidarity across the Islamic world. It says that addressing the needs and guaranteeing the rights of children in Islamic nations will in large part determine whether the world succeeds in reaching global development targets and building a more peaceful future.

The report was released by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) and UNICEF, at an event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations in New York.

“We are extremely encouraged by the vision and leadership being shown by the OIC and ISESCO in mobilising member states and other partners to accelerate progress for children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

A changing world

Some children living in OIC member states are among the most fortunate, while others are among the poorest in the world. Living in countries as diverse as Indonesia, Niger and Saudi Arabia, these children make up over one quarter of the global child population and represent more than 40 per cent of the Muslim population.

Many of them face enormous barriers to survival and are denied the chance to thrive and grow into a productive adulthood - barriers that can only be overcome through collective action by the global Islamic community.

“OIC member states and the broader Muslim community are to be looked upon to portray the true meaning of Islam’s vision on childhood issues and to demonstrate truly the spirit of Islamic solidarity by working together to develop policies and programmes for the social uplift of our children,” said OIC Secretary-General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

The largest generation of children and young people in history is preparing to enter adulthood in a rapidly changing world. Although many of these children have experienced dramatic improvements in health and education services over the last few years, too many are still deprived of basic essentials, particularly girls.

Ministerial Conference on the Child

Child mortality rates remain extremely high across many Islamic states in sub-Saharan Africa. The OIC accounts for 11 out of 16 of the countries with the highest child mortality rates. In 17 Islamic countries fewer than 60 per cent of children attend primary school. Maternal mortality, which directly affects child health and well being, is an enormous problem for many. HIV/AIDS affects 5.4 per cent of African OIC countries and is having a devastating impact on children.

At the same time the report highlights inspiring examples of cooperation and progress within the OIC that continue to generate concrete results for children. In Oman, under-5 child mortality has declined from 280 per 1,000 live births in the 1960s to 12 per 1,000 in 2003.

The report calls for governments to work together and with Islamic financial institutions, and for richer Islamic nations to help the poorer ones so that assistance can be channelled to meet the critical needs of children. It will serve as the background document to the first-ever Ministerial Conference on the Child, which is being organised by the OIC, ISESCO and UNICEF in Rabat, Morocco, from 7-9 November 2005.







21 September 2005:

UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the release of the landmark report. 
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UNICEF Special Adviser Sadig Rasheed talks about the strong central message of the report. 
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