Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
Debt 'killing children'
Children's health is suffering as governments struggle to pay debts
Mortality rates among mothers and children are rising as a result of the crippling cost of debt in the world's poorest countries, says a United Nations report.
As a result, hundreds of millions of people are suffering from ill health, and children are being condemned to a life without schooling, says the annual Progress of Nations report.
It also assesses the progress being made in the battle against polio, and the impact of Aids on children.
Following Angola, the organisation ranks Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Somalia as the next most dangerous places to grow up.
In Angola, the continuing civil war, the virtual collapse of the health system, a lack of basic education and nationwide food shortages combine to make it the worst place for children.
The quality of life indicators chosen by Unicef are
Not surprisingly, advanced western countries do best.
New call for debt relief
The UN children's organisation calls for the outright cancellation of all debt.
Countries have to wait six years before becoming eligible and so far only three - Uganda, Bolivia and Guyana - have benefited.
Its executive director, Carole Bellamy, says sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected.
"Sub-Saharan Africa alone is caught in a debt trap. The governments spend more on servicing their more than $300bn debt than on the health and education of their children "
Far from rewarding irresponsibility, Unicef believes debt relief is an essential weapon in the fight against poverty.
Without it, the agency says, the goal of cutting world poverty by half by 2015 is unattainable.