Unicef Logo and the text: Children Under Threat. The State of The World's Children 2005.

Paula Bronstein

Press Release

Key Arguments

Childhood implies a distinct period of life in which children can grow in health and safety. Childhood refers not only to an irreplaceable time of individual human growth, but to the quality of those years. The world embraced standards for childhood in 1989 when every nation signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Yet childhood today is under threat for more than 1 billion children. Poverty, conflict, and HIV/AIDS are among the most serious threats undercutting childhood across the globe. Individually and in concert, these threats are undermining the survival, well-being and future prospects of children – effectively denying them their childhood.

The loss of childhood has vast implications. The harm caused by each of these threats lasts well beyond childhood, often recurring in the next generation. Not one of the Millennium Development Goals will be attained if childhood continues under the current levels of attack.

Children bear the brunt of poverty. The well-being and development of more than half the children in developing countries are undermined because they are deprived of at least one or more of the basic goods and services that would allow them to survive, develop and thrive.

Poverty is not exclusive to developing countries. In 11 of 15 developed countries for which comparable data are available, there have been notable increases in child poverty rates during the last decade.

Armed conflict deprives children of their most basic protection. Conflict displaces millions of children from their homes, communities and families, forces children to become soldiers and to endure sexual and other violence, hunger, disease and trauma. Children account for nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflicts since 1990.

HIV/AIDS is posing a growing and lethal assault on children and childhood. In several worst-hit countries, child death rates have risen dramatically due to AIDS. Millions of children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and millions more are suffering the effects of living with sick and dying parents and caregivers. AIDS, now the single largest killer of people ages 15-49 in the developing world, is fast overwhelming the coping capacities of families and communities.

Also in this section

Picture of a child


A child carrying water

The Convention on the Rights of the Child [Web]

A World Fit for Children [PDF]

Human rights for children and women: How UNICEF helps make them a reality [PDF]

Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child -
Fully Revised Edition

Building a World Fit for Children [PDF]

We the children [PDF]

“Abandoned and destitute…children devoid of all the basic necessities in life are taken advantage of... they are exploited at the hands of people in numerous ways leaving them scared, helpless and vulnerable.
girl, 19, UAE

Log on to www.unicef.org/voy

Approximate lowest possible cost of generic antiretroviral therapy for one year: $300

Per capita annual income in Mozambique: $210

Per cent of people in developing countries who need antiretroviral therapy but do not have access to it: 93
© UNICEF 2004