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Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
'War footing' urged to fight Aids
Aids victims, Africa
The young are suffering in an Aids epidemic
The United Nations Children's Fund - Unicef - says nations must go on a war-footing to combat Aids.

It's like a war of liberation and I would emphasise the liberation part

Carol Bellamy, Unicef

Its "Progress of Nations 2000" report says the virus represents the greatest threat that many societies have ever faced.

The report also examines the threat
posed by malnutrition, early childhood healthcare and the progress of immunisation programmes - but it is the threat posed by Aids and HIV which it chooses to highlight.

Unicef paints a stark picture, saying that while six people under the age of 24 are infected with HIV every single minute, many are still ignorant of the risks.

The executive director of Unicef, Carol Bellamy, said: "It's like a war of liberation and I would emphasise the liberation part.

"From top to bottom, more resources, more concern, more people, more effort has to be put into this or societies are going to implode from the centre."
Progress 2000: the global threat
Six people aged under 24 infected per minute with HIV
In 1999, 10m people aged 15-24 contracted HIV
209m children under five are malnourished
Between 50m and 60m five to 11 year olds engaged in "intolerable" labour
The UN's Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, writes that in less than a generation Aids and HIV has become "the greatest catastrophe facing the continent of Africa and is now spreading in Asia and parts of Central Europe and Latin America.

Unicef estimates that by the end of 1999, HIV infections were contracted by more than 10 milion people aged between 15 and 24 - a third of all known cases.

"Although our emphasis in the report is on HIV/Aids, the spread of this disease among young people is emblematic of something much broader: the world's failure to fulfil children's rights," said Ms Bellamy.

So malevolent is the threat that the economic prospects and social stability of entire regions are at risk

Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General
Health and poverty

In the section on early childhood healthcare, it found that 209 million children under the age of five were malnourished and stunted.

Nearly three-quarters, or 144 million, of these live in the Asia and Pacific region.

Unicef estimates that an additional global expenditure of US $70-80bn each year would extend basic services and help to prevent millions of children losing both physical and mental potential.
Progress 2000: the upside
Vaccinations save 2.5 million children per year
Millions more children have access to clean water
Millions more children are enrolled in school
Millions more children have their existence registered
Unicef estimates that some 50 million to 60 million children between the ages of five and 11 are engaged in "intolerable" forms of labour - such as brothels and sweatshops.

They had been made "virtually invisible by the deepest poverty, not registered at birth and thus denied official acknowledgement of their name and nationality and the protection of their rights."

The lost children...are robbed of their health, their growth, their education - and often even their lives

Juan Somavia, International Labour Organisation
Among positive developments, the report says that immunisation programmes are saving the lives of 2.5 million children each year - although there are still 30 million infants not protected by routine vaccination in developing countries.

It says 470 million children under five were immunised in 1999 in a global programme unmatched in peacetime.

Mr Annan recounts that other success stories include

  • millions of children being less likely to be left mentally impaired because of iodine deficiency
  • millions more enjoying better health thanks to improved access to clean water
  • more children being enrolled in school now than was the case 10 years ago
  • birth registration records becoming vastly improved
BBC's Clare Doole in Geneva
"UN wants to focus attention on 'the lost children' "
Carol Bellamy from Unicef
"It's like a war of liberation"
See also:

12 Jul 00 | Health
12 Jul 00 | South Asia
11 Jul 00 | Africa
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
25 May 00 | Health
25 May 00 | South Asia
06 Apr 00 | UK Politics
27 Jun 00 | Business
22 Jun 00 | South Asia
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