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UNICEF: Childhood, a brutal experience for 1 billion children

© UNICEF Malaysia/2004/Wilson
UNICEF Malaysia Representative Gaye Phillips with the former First Lady, HE Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd Ali.

KUALA LUMPUR, 9 December 2004 - Despite the near universal embrace of standards for protecting childhood, UNICEF’s flagship report – The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2005 shows that more than half the world’s young population are suffering extreme deprivations from poverty, war and HIV/AIDS, conditions that are effectively denying them their childhood and holding back the development of nations.

Released at the end of each year, the SOWC is UNICEF’s tool to mobilise commitments and responses from all sectors of society to the most pressing issues relevant to children. In 2005, the Report titled “Childhood Under Threat” examines three of the most devastating factors threatening childhood today: poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS.

Childhood under threat

For children, the world is now a more distressing and violent place since World War 2 -

  • One in six children is severely hungry; one in seven has no health care at all; one in five has no safe water and one in three has no toilet or sanitation facilities at home.
  • Children account for nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflicts since 1990.
  • AIDS is now the single largest killer of people ages 15-49 in the developing world.

“When childhood is lost for so many children, our shared future is compromised.  We will not reach any of the Millennium Development Goals without protecting children in these crucial years. Ensuring each child a healthy and protected childhood is a matter of choices. Unfortunately, our choices so far have not always been in children’s favour,” said UNICEF Malaysia Representative Gaye Phillips at the Malaysian Launch of the Report today. 

Phillips presented the Report together with four Malaysian children aged between 10 and 16 to a group of Malaysian women heroes and youth representatives led by Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah bt. Mohd Ali. Joining the former First Lady in receiving the report were Education Parliamentary Secretary Komala Devi, Malaysian AIDS Council President Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, and seventeen year old youth journalist Dahlia Martin.

Compromised future

© UNICEF Malaysia/2004/Wilson
Students of the Dr. Muda (young doctor) program with the SOWC 2005 report

“Many children have black holes in their consciousness, are sleepless, have lost the capacity to laugh, and are haunted by dreams and fears which make them feel painfully alone inside. The vision of childhood that unites countries and its people is at odds as we allow more young lives to be destroyed. And with each childhood that is lost, a little more of the world’s shared future is compromised”, added Ms Phillips.

A special web chat program involving thirty young people was held on 8 December as part of the lead-up to the Launch. Nine Malaysian youth reporters and broadcasters between the ages of 14 and 16 joined their peers from Nigeria, the Occupied Palestine Territories and the United Kingdom to discuss poverty, conflict and HIV/AIDS and the role they can play in supporting leaders to resolve these issues. Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director joined the young people for part of the web chat. The Malaysian youth representatives were:

  1. Aaron Ong
  2. Aminda Faizura Omar
  3. Dahlia Martin
  4. Gan Huan Jing 
  5. Jennifer  Guan Huey Chen
  6. Khairul Amanda bt Sabri   
  7. Lam Ee Wen
  8. Lim Su Ann
  9. Muhammad Ahnaf bin Abdul Rahim     

Opportunities for young people

“As leaders and adults in today’s world, you must never let us believe that a lack of resources will limit our opportunities in life. The opportunities and the right to make the most of them must be made clear to us as early as possible” said Dahlia Martin, a 17 year old Malaysian journalist in her speech during the evening’s special dinner forum.  Dahlia was also one the nine Malaysians who took part in the web chat.

Other highlights for the evening included a special World AIDS Day choral presentation by thirty children aged 10 to 12 from the Dr. Muda Program of the Sekolah Kebangsaan Pendang, Kedah as well as the screening of a TV special titled “The Slumber Party” produced by 15 Malaysian children with support from 8TV. The Kids-for-Kids special will air over 8TV at 3pm, Sunday, 12 December in conjunction with International Children’s Day of Broadcasting 2004.

The Malaysian country launch was held simultaneously with the global launch in London. Participating in the global launch were Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director and actress and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Vanessa Redgrave.





Childhood under Threat


Gaye Phillips
UNICEF Representative, Malaysia
UNICEF Special Representative, Singapore & Brunei


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