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Press release

Children, the Focus for Islamic Solidarity

NEW YORK, 21 September 2005 – A new report says action is urgently needed to tackle a range of problems facing over 600 million children in the Islamic world, from poverty and disease to education and protection. At the same time, the report reflects a determination on the part of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to mobilize its Member States to provide financial and technical resources, share experience and expertise and organize practical support that will bring about improvement and lasting progress in the lives of their children.

OIC Member States account for a quarter of the world’s 2.3 billion children - in nations spanning Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Titled Investing in the Children of the Islamic World and jointly issued by the OIC, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and UNICEF, the report says that meeting the needs and guaranteeing the rights of children in Islamic countries will in large part determine the success of overall efforts to combat poverty, accelerate human development and promote global peace and security.

“OIC Member States and the broader Muslim community must demonstrate the true meaning of Islam’s vision on childhood issues and the real spirit of Islamic solidarity by coming together for the sake of our children,” said OIC Secretary-General Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The future development of our countries depends on today’s children, and the needs of these children are urgent.”

Some of the key findings of Investing in the Children of the Islamic World include:

  • OIC Member States, which include nations as diverse as Indonesia, Niger and Saudi Arabia, account for 11 of the 16 countries with the world's highest child mortality rates. Around 4.3 million children under five die each year in OIC countries from preventable disease and malnutrition, over 60 per cent of them dying before their first birthday. Only 14 of the 57 OIC member states are on track to achieve the MDG on child mortality.
  • Children living in Islamic sub-Saharan Africa experience the most severe deprivations. Child mortality rates in this region are more than double the world average. A child born in African OIC Member States can expect to live only 46 years, compared to 78 in industrialized countries.
  • In many OIC countries, high fertility and lack of access to skilled medical care contribute to some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. In Afghanistan, one in six pregnancies results in death; in African OIC Member States, the average is one death for every 15 pregnancies. Globally, the average is one in 74.
  • Primary school participation is below 60 per cent in 20 African OIC Member States. More than half the adult population is illiterate in some of these countries, and the proportion is as high as 70 percent among women. Four out of 10 children in the African OIC Member States are out of school, as are a quarter of children in Arab member states. Only 26 out of 57 OIC Member States are on course to achieve the primary education gender equality targets for 2005.
  • More than a third of all children in OIC Member States, excluding the Arab sub-region, live with persistent malnutrition. Levels of exclusive breastfeeding within OIC Member States are among the lowest in the world.
  • HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect on children in African OIC Member States, where adult prevalence rates are 5.4 per cent (7.9 million cases). Prevalence rates in Arab and Asian OIC Member States are low by comparison – 0.3 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively. But concentrated epidemics among intravenous drug users and commercial sex workers in some countries are major causes for concern.

    “Much progress has been made, and one aim of the report is to enable members to share and learn from positive examples. But much remains to be done to address high levels of maternal and child health, break the silence on HIV/AIDS and protect children from all forms of violence and exploitation," said Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director-General of ISESCO. “Investing in children and putting them at the center of development strategies are the most effective ways to eliminate poverty and meet global development targets.”

    The report says governments must form active partnerships with one another, and regional and international financial institutions and the private sector must provide needed funding and technical expertise. Development assistance must also be increased significantly, with the wealthier OIC Member States coming to the aid of the poorer, and channeling their assistance more deliberately to address the critical needs of children.

    "We are extremely encouraged by the vision and leadership being shown by the OIC and ISESCO in mobilizing Islamic countries to accelerate progress for children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “UNICEF shares their commitment and  stands ready to work with them to ensure that their actions have practical impact and generate concrete results for children.”

    Investing in the Children of the Islamic World will serve as the background document for the First Ministerial Conference on the Child, which is being jointly organized by the OIC, ISESCO and UNICEF in Rabat, Morocco on 7 - 9 November 2005. The Ministerial Conference will assess progress in Islamic countries in key areas relating to children, review good practices and lessons learned, and recommend actions to speed delivery on key commitments.

    The report was presented at an event hosted by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations. Foreign Minister Hamid Albar, representing Malaysia as current President of the OIC Summit, said, “As the OIC undergoes its current process of reform and revitalization nothing is more important than putting children at the center of its efforts”.

    Other OIC Ministers and Permanent Representatives to the United Nations were also on hand to show their support for collective action among Islamic countries and the broader Muslim community on behalf of children.

    * * * * *

    About The Organisation of the Islamic Conference
    The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an inter-governmental organization grouping fifty-seven States. Under the OIC Charter, the OIC aims to strengthen Islamic solidarity among member states; cooperation in the political, economic, social and cultural and scientific fields; and the struggle of all Muslim people to safeguard their dignity, independence and national rights. It also aims to coordinate action to safeguard the Holy Places and support the struggle of the Palestinian people and assist them in recovering their rights.

    About The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
    The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) is a specialized inter-governmental organization   established in May 1982. The Organization aims to strengthen and promote cooperation among Member States in the fields of education, science, culture and communication. It also seeks to develop applied sciences and use of advanced technology within the framework of Islamic values and ideals; consolidate understanding among Muslim peoples and contribute to the achievement of world peace and security, particularly through education, science, culture and communications.

    About UNICEF
    For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 157 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, access to clean water and sanitation, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals, and through our National Committees for UNICEF we sell greeting cards and other products that help advance humanity.

    For further information:

    Liza Barrie, UNICEF New York
    Tel: (+1) 212-326-7593
    email: lbarrie@unicef.org

    Claire Hajaj, UNICEF New York
    Tel: (+1) 646-331-4547
    email: chajaj@unicef.org

    Vivien Chan, UNICEF New York
    Tel: (+1) 212-326-7107
    Email: vchan@unicef.org

  • Information Service of ISESCO





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