I. Leadership from 1990-2000
At the 1990 World Summit for Children held
in New York, world leaders designed a blueprint for improving
the lives of children and women within a decade.
A boy in Zimbabwe studies while two girls
work in a field in the background.
Their goals were straightforward: Reduce child mortality rates.
Improve maternal health care. Cut malnutrition rates in half.
Assure safe drinking water and access to sanitation for everyone.
Deliver basic education to all children. Improve the protection
Following the World Summit many leaders aggressively began the
work that was called for, and the outcomes were impressive. Under-five
mortality rates were reduced by 14 per cent. Neonatal tetanus
was eliminated in 104 of 161 developing nations. Vitamin A and
iodized salt were delivered to nearly 75 per cent of children.
But a decade that began with promise was marked by missed opportunities.
One third of all children were still not being registered at
birth at the end of the year 2000, resulting in no official record
of their existence and leaving them vulnerable to denial of health
care and schooling. Around 30 million infants are still not reached
by routine immunizations. In sub-Saharan Africa only 47 per cent
of children are immunized against diphtheria, whooping cough and
A third of the children in the world suffered from malnutrition
during the 1990s. Children's malnutrition rates declined by only
17 per cent in developing countries rather than being halved.
The drop in malnutrition in Asia was a mere 7 per cent. In sub-Saharan
Africa the absolute number of malnourished children actually increased.
Today 1.1 billion people remain without safe water and 2.4 billion
are without adequate sanitation.
The goal of universal basic education has not been achieved.
Over 100 million children of primary school age are not in school
and many more receive poor quality education. The gender gap leaves
more girls than boys out of the classroom.
The maternal mortality ratio remains at 1990 levels instead of
being halved. The goal for all pregnant women to have access to
prenatal care and trained attendants during childbirth has not
materialized. Only 29 per cent of South Asian births and 37 per
cent of sub-Saharan African births are attended.
On balance, while there have been some notable successes since
1990, much more is needed from governments and individuals if
the rights of all children are to be realized.
For an extensive treatment of the effects of nutrition on child
development, see The State of the World's Children,