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UNICEF mourns death of Professor Peter Townsend

NEW YORK, 15 June 2009 - With great sadness,  UNICEF has learned that Professor Peter Townsend, a champion for children everywhere,  passed away on 7 June 2009.  Until his life’s end,  Professor Townsend sustained his outrage at the inequalities in the world, inequalities that condemn millions of children to suffer deprivations that violate their basic rights to survival and development.  He advocated fiercely and continuously for the right of every child, whether from a poor country or a rich country,  to social security and an adequate standard of living.  He used his considerable intellect to research innovative sources of financing for a universal child benefit—a grant for all children everywhere—and seized every opportunity to press the measure as both morally just and economically feasible.

In the course of his life, Professor Townsend influenced many people and institutions, but the research he led, with David Gordon of Bristol University, Child Poverty in the Developing World, (2003) transformed the way UNICEF and many of its partners both understood and measured the poverty suffered by children.  This innovative method of measuring deprivations: the extent to which a child is unable to realize his or her fundamental rights to health, food,  education, water, sanitation,  shelter and information,  has exposed policy-makers all over the world to a new understanding of child poverty and inequalities. As a consequence, children are more visible in poverty reduction policies and debates. UNICEF’s Global Study on Child Poverty and Disparities, which currently covers 48 countries, has been inspired to a large extent by Professor Townsend’s  work.  He also took a personal role in helping UNICEF to bring the voice of the poor to scientific and political fora, most recently through his powerful speech at concluding events of the first UN Decade on Poverty Eradication in New York.

Peter Townsend will be missed by UNICEF, but even more by the millions of poor children around the world, who never heard his voice, but whom he never forgot either in his research or in his advocacy,  nor, most importantly, in his heart.  Yet his voice will echo beyond his lifetime, and continue to influence efforts to end child poverty, in the rich and the poor world.

UNICEF wishes to express its condolences to the family and friends of Peter Townsend, for the loss to humanity of this great human being, a man who lived a life that profoundly improved the lives of others.

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.

For further information, please contact:
Saira Saeed Khan, UNICEF Media, Tel + 212-326-7224, Email sskhan@unicef.org




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