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Violence is a public health issue in almost every industrialized and developing country in the world.

Challenges to ECD

Why has the decision to invest in ECD, so seemingly the best public policy for responsible leaders, not been made in every community and every country?

Because poverty is a merciless foe. In a time of unprecedented global prosperity, the World Bank estimates that in 1998, 1.2 billion people, including more than half a billion children, lived in poverty on less than $1 a day.18 In the poorest nations, money that could go to education, health care and infrastructure improvement is spent on debt repayment. Developing nations owe more than $2 trillion to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), other lenders and industrialized countries.19 Loans that were meant to lift countries out of poverty — that could lift them in a generation if their monies were invested in ECD today — are instead dragging them further into debt.

Because of the ever-present threat or reality of violence. The rights to survival, growth and development of millions of children throughout the world are at risk along a continuum of violence that stretches from households, where children are often exposed to or are victims of violence and abuse on a routine basis, to international policies, where infants and children die as a result of economic sanctions, to the horrors of modern warfare, where millions are killed and millions more survive only to be haunted by their memories.

And because by killing more than 2 million adults each year, HIV/AIDS strips a front line of protection from the thousands of children who are orphaned each day. HIV/AIDS is a global emergency of devastating impact, taking the lives of adults and children in every region of the world and leaving child survivors to cope without parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and siblings, teachers and health care workers.

The disease spares no continent.20 In 1998 alone, 2.2 million Africans died from HIV/AIDS. In 1999, nearly a quarter of a million people in Ukraine had the virus. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.7 million people are HIV infected, 37,600 of them children. And in Asia, 6.1 million people, including 205,200 children, were living with HIV at the end of 1999.


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