Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Children Wait on World's Promises

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Children Wait on World's Promises

Article excerpt

ONE year ago this week, the largest gathering of heads of government in history convened at the World Summit for Children to heed the cries of the world's dying and suffering children. What they heard and saw that day revealed and dramatized a quiet catastrophe; at last, child survival has been able to occupy center stage.

The assembly was more than symbolic. It produced a plan of action with priorities to eradicate threats to child survival and to provide the educational opportunities essential to individual and global prosperity. The goals were clear and sweeping, led by an imperative to cut each country's child-mortality rate by at least one-third by the year 2000 to save the lives of more than 30 million children.

The 71 leaders of nations also resolved to reduce maternal mortality, child malnutrition, and adult illiteracy by half and to provide universal access to clean water, safe sanitation, and primary education.

In many cases, the challenges and the means to solve them have been with us for years. It was discovered a decade ago that a salt-based "oral rehydration" solution costing 10 cents a dose could prevent some 2.5 million deaths a year from diarrheal dehydration. Half of the 40,000 child deaths occurring each day in this world are preventable.

In Bangladesh alone, each year hundreds of thousands of children die from diseases for which inexpensive vaccines and other preventive interventions exist. Expanded immunization programs sponsored by the Carter Center's Task Force for Child Survival, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Bangladesh, the United States, and others are helping, but we need vast resources to do more.

A staggering realization is that all the health goals adopted at the summit could be reached for an additional $25 billion over 10 years - roughly the amount the world spends on the military every 10 days.

Like imbalanced fiscal priorities, our deficit in public health education also contributes to infant deaths and premature births. According to a 1991 UNICEF report, the US infant-mortality rate increased from 10th lowest worldwide in 1960 to 19th lowest in 1989. According to the US Office of Technology Assessment, our country could save $14,000 to $30,000 in hospital and long-term health costs associated with each low-birth-weight baby - funds that could go toward public education and prevention. …

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