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UNICEF Report Blames Leadership on Child Deaths

In a hard-hitting end of century report due to be released later today, UNICEF says that a lack of leadership causes 11 million-plus children to die in the world every year due to growing conflicts and the spread of AIDS. John Howard reports.

While the world basks in prosperity, or some of it does, 600 million children are left in poverty and 11 million die every year.

"Over the last 20 years the number of people living in poverty grew to 1.2 billion, or over one in five persons, including more than 600 million children," the report says.

Conflicts have spread to encompass 56 countries where UNICEF works making it difficult and sometimes impossible to to deliver the fruits of 20th century science: Vaccines and immunisations.

"The impact of conflict is falling most harshly on the young and they are the future," said Carol Bellamy UNICEF's executive director.

The report cites a lack of leadership around the world for the failure of commitments to improve children's lives and protect their most basic rights.

"A vacuum of leadership has allowed the merciless targeting of children and women in armed conflict while there has been a devastating free-fall in development assistance to the poorest nations," Ms Bellamy said.

The report calls HIV-AIDS a "full blown pandemic" and says that every minute five young people are infected by HIV. There are 11 million people aged 15 to 24 suffering from AIDS today.

Aid workers have difficulties reaching children in strife-torn nations and in some places AIDS has claimed the person who would normally bring the child to be vaccinated.

The growing conflicts and the spread of AIDS threaten to outweigh the dramatic improvements of the 20th century, the report says.

"For all the gains made, the 20th century is about failed leadership," the report adds.

If we don't seize the the start of the new millennium to solve the terrifying plight faced by our children, then we are guilty of contributing to their suffering and to the wholesale abuse of their right to live. The choice is ours.


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