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Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas

This page is background information, last updated in May 2002 and still available for reference. For the latest on the Special Session on Children, please go to the Special Session index.

The World's Goals for Children

World leaders meeting at the 1990 World Summit for Children established 27 specific goals related to children's survival, health, nutrition, education and protection. The goals were to be met by the year 2000.

In May 2002, world leaders will convene at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children to review the progress in meeting the goals and to agree on new goals for the next decade.

The record summarized here is a mix of notable successes (6 goals), some progress (12 goals) and no progress at all (3 goals). There is limited or inconclusive data on the remaining 6 goals.

More extensive reporting and discussions are found in the source document, the September 2001 report of the UN Secretary-General, entitled We The Children, and A Statistical Review of Progress Since the World Summit for Children.


The plan of action adopted by the World Summit for Children foresaw that HIV/AIDS might offset gains made in child survival, protection and development. But few people in 1990 could imagine the magnitude of the pandemic’s effects. Many of the achievements in social and human development of the last half of the 20th century are now at risk. In some regions, such as sub Saharan Africa, they are already being undone. A few countries openly and bravely confronted the pandemic in the 1990s and have seen encouraging results, but elsewhere, public initiatives were delayed for years.

Children and young adults have been among the main victims of this neglect. Children face various threats from HIV/AIDS including being infected by the virus, being affected by the consequences to their families and communities and being orphaned when their parent(s) die from the AIDS. Almost one half of new infections are occurring among young people.

Going forward, the battle against HIV/AIDS will be a major factor in progress made for children

I. Notable successes
  1. Polio: global eradication by 2000 [view data]
  2. Neonatal tetanus: elimination by 1995 [view data]
  3. Deaths due to diarrhoea: 50 per cent reduction [view data]
  4. Vitamin A deficiency: virtual elimination by the year 2000 [view data]
  5. Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD): virtual elimination [view data]
  6. Elimination of guinea-worm disease (dracunculiasis) by 2000 [view data]
II. Some progress
  1. Infant and under-5 mortality (U5MR): reduction by one third in infant mortality and U5MR [view data]
  2. Measles: reduction by 95 per cent in measles deaths and 90 per cent of measles cases by 1995 as a major step to global eradication in the longer run [view data]
  3. Malnutrition: reduction of severe and moderate malnutrition among under-five children by half [view data]
  4. Breastfeeding: empowerment of all women to breastfeed their children exclusively for four to six months and to continue breastfeeding, with complementary food, well into the second year of life [view data]
  5. Low birth-weight: reduction of the rate of low birth-weight (2.5 kilograms or less) to less than 10 per cent [view data]
  6. Family planning: access by all couples to information and services to prevent pregnancies that are too early, too closely spaced, too late or too numerous [view data]
  7. Childbirth care: access by all pregnant women to prenatal care [view data]
  8. Water: universal access to safe drinking water [view data]
  9. Universal access to basic education: achievement of primary education by at least 80% of primary school-age children [view data]
  10. Universal access to education with an emphasis on primary education for girls and literacy training for women [view data]
  11. Early childhood development (ECD): expansion of ECD activities, including appropriate low-cost family and community-based interventions [view data]
  12. Improve protection of children in extremely difficult circumstances (EDC) [view data]
III. No progress
  1. Routine immunisation: maintenance of a high level of immunisation coverage [view data]
  2. Maternal mortality: reduction of the rate by half [view data]
  3. Anaemia: reduction of iron deficiency anaemia in women by one-third [view data]
IV. Limited data
  1. Special attention to the health and nutrition of the female child and to pregnant and lactating women [view data]
  2. Childbirth care: access by all pregnant women to referral facilities for high-risk pregnancies and obstetric emergencies [view data]
  3. Growth monitoring: growth promotion and regular growth monitoring among children to be institutionalised in all countries by the end of the 1990s [view data]
  4. Household food security: dissemination of knowledge and supporting services to increase food production [view data]
  5. Acute respiratory infections (ARI): reduction of ARI deaths by one third in children under five [view data]
  6. Knowledge skills and values required for better living: increased acquisition by individuals and families of knowledge, skills and values for better living, using all educational channels [view data]
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