Date: Mon, 13 Dec 1999 21:42:39 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk <email@example.com>
Subject: RIGHTS-CHILDREN: UNICEF Gives Latin America Mediocre Grades
UNICEF Gives Latin America Mediocre Grades
By Diego Cevallos, IPS, 10 December 1999
MEXICO CITY, Dec 13 (IPS) - Latin America and the Caribbean are faltering in the treatment of their 190 million children and adolescents, with Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua receiving especially low scores in a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report released Monday.
The State of the World's Children 2000, unlike UNICEF's previous reports, uses world maps and graphs in presenting its information. Some Latin American countries stand out in red on the maps, indicating children at risk, but very few in comparison with Africa.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 50 percent of the population is under age 18. Children and adolescents face severe deficits in health and education, have reduced life expectancy rates, and confront high- risk situations, such as war and other conflicts.
The report, which UNICEF states is a call for leaders of industrialised and developing countries alike to reaffirm their commitment to children, gives Latin America a mid-level ranking regarding respect for children's rights.
The UNICEF document says everyone must work towards creating a new world within just one generation, adopting a vision for the future in which children and women are free from poverty, discrimination, violence and disease.
In Haiti, the Latin American country where children are most at risk - like nearly all sub-Saharan African nations -, an average of 100 children die each year, out every 1,000 children under age five, according to the report's life expectancy figures.
The same table shows that in Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras, 30 percent or more of the children under age five suffer moderate or serious problems in their physical growth.
Guatemala and Nicaragua, both with a majority of their population under age 18, appear along with Haiti as the Latin American countries with the lowest education levels. In the three nations, only 50 to 74 percent of the children are registered in, or attend school.
Haiti is the only country in the region that appears on the report's map of children in "high-risk situations," an indicator that combines mortality rates, school attendance rates, the percentage of underweight children, risk of armed conflict and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
Several Latin American countries are highlighted on the report's map of "unstable environments," which include armed conflicts, natural disasters, and the presence of landmines.
Mexico appears on the map for its natural disasters, as do nearly all Central American nations, which are also marked because of their landmines. Peru and Colombia are included for their internal armed conflicts.
Colombia is the only Latin American nation with its own chapter in the State of the World's Children 2000, due to its decades-long civil war, involving guerrilla groups, paramilitary squads and the government armed forces.
UNICEF reports that over the last decade one million Colombians were displaced from their homes, fleeing the civil war. More than 70 percent of those displaced were women and children.
Colombian children are the principal victims of the war and are among the main perpetrators of violence, as more than 2,000 minors under age 15 have been recruited by guerrilla and paramilitary groups, according to the report.
In the 10 yeasr since the International Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed, more than two million children have been assassinated in the world and more than six million suffered injuries or were left disabled as a consequence of armed conflict.
In the UNICEF report's introduction, United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan stresses that now is not the time to rest on past achievements. Millions of children continue to suffer the indignity of poverty, and hundreds of thousands suffer the effects of armed conflicts and economic chaos, he says.
"The State of the World's Children 2000 begins and ends with the premise that the source of human progress resides in the implementation of children's rights," in putting good intentions into practice, according to Annan.
We must use courage and commitment to make children's rights a reality, "because a child in danger is a child who cannot wait," concludes the UN leader.
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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