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Poverty, Wars and AIDS: Horrible Experiences for Half the Children of the Earth

Over half of the world’s children suffer from severe deprivation due to poverty, conflict and HIV / AIDS, phenomena that deny children to children and block the development of nations: this is underlined by the annual report on the condition of children in the world. To read more about the children’s status visit here and you might find some useful pieces of information. “Over one billion children – said Carol Bellamy, Director General of UNICEF – are still denied the healthy development promised them by the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child”. The UNICEF report also highlighted that governments’ inability to live up to the precepts of the Convention causes permanent harm to children, translating into an obstacle to the progress of human rights and the economy. The report was presented in London, at the London School of Economics, and simultaneously all over the world; in Italy, in Rome, a press conference was held in the hall of the Foreign Press Association in the presence of the President of UNICEF Italy Giovanni Micali. “Too many governments consciously and deliberately take decisions that, in fact, cause serious harm to children – said Carol Bellamy, presenting the UNICEF report – Poverty does not come from nothing; war is not a spontaneous event; AIDS does not spread due to intrinsic causes: these phenomena are a consequence of our choices. If half of the world’s children grow up afflicted by hunger and disease, if schools have become a deliberate target, if entire villages are depopulated by HIV / AIDS, this means that we have not kept the promises made for children “.

640 million children do not have adequate housing
500 million children do not have access to basic sanitation
400 million children do not have access to safe water sources
300 million children do not have access to information (TV, radio and press )
270 million children have no access to health services
over 120 million children (140 million according to estimates by the University of Bristol), most of whom are girls, never went to school
90 million children suffer from severe food shortages.
Together with bad governance, extreme poverty is among the main factors at the origin of conflicts, especially of civil wars, in which armed factions compete for control of poorly managed national resources: the report shows that 55 of the 59 armed conflicts that took place between 1990 and 2003 took place within, rather than between, countries. The impact on childhood has been high: according to the report, almost half of the 3.6 million people who have died in the war since 1990 are children. And children have now become a deliberate target, as dramatically demonstrated by the September 2004 attack on the Beslan school in the Russian Federation. The report also highlights how hundreds of thousands of children are still being recruited or kidnapped to fight as soldiers; they fall victim to sexual exploitation; they are maimed by mines; they are forced to commit atrocities and kill; often they are orphaned due to the violence; During the 1990s, nearly 20 million children had to flee their homes due to armed conflict. The impact of war on overall health conditions is catastrophic: in a war that lasts on average 5 years – highlights the report – the 0-5 year mortality rate increases by 13%. And, as conflicts exacerbate pre-existing poverty conditions, more attention and investment in post-war reconstruction processes becomes necessary globally. The impact on childhood of HIV / AIDS emerges dramatically from the growing number of AIDS orphans, today it amounts to 15 million orphaned children worldwide. The death of a parent affects every aspect of the child’s life, underlines the relationship: from the emotional sphere to physical safety, from cognitive development to the general state of health. But children suffer from the pernicious effects of HIV / AIDS long before they are orphaned. In families affected by HIV / AIDS, many children – most of them girls – are forced to drop out of school, to look after sick family members or to work, because of the economic difficulties caused by the illness of family members. This increases the risks of incurring dangerous jobs or falling victim to exploitation. HIV / AIDS not only causes the death of parents but also destroys the social protection network created by adults for children: many of the AIDS patients or people who died of AIDS are teachers, doctors or other figures on which children depend. And since the incidence of AIDS tends to increase more in groups already affected, once adults begin to die the overall consequences for surviving children are devastating. Due to the time interval between HIV infection and death from AIDS, the crisis will continue to worsen for at least the next ten years, even if the spread of new infections is immediately stopped or begins to decrease: the UNICEF report indicates in detail the measures that States must take to prevent the spread of AIDS, to keep HIV-infected adults alive and to provide for the care and support of already orphaned children. And since the incidence of AIDS tends to grow more in groups already affected, once adults begin to die the overall consequences for surviving children are devastating. Due to the time interval between HIV infection and death from AIDS, the crisis will continue to worsen for at least the next ten years, even if the spread of new infections is immediately stopped or begins to decrease: the UNICEF report indicates in detail the measures that States must take to prevent the spread of AIDS, to keep HIV-infected adults alive and to provide for the care and support of already orphaned children. And since the incidence of AIDS tends to grow more in groups already affected, once adults begin to die the overall consequences for surviving children are devastating. Due to the time interval between HIV infection and death from AIDS, the crisis will continue to worsen for at least the next ten years, even if the spread of new infections is immediately stopped or begins to decrease: the UNICEF report indicates in detail the measures that States must take to prevent the spread of AIDS, to keep HIV-infected adults alive and to provide for the care and support of already orphaned children.

The condition of childhood in the world states that bridging the gap between our ideal of childhood and the reality concretely experienced by half the children of the earth is a matter of choices. To do this it is necessary to: Adopt an approach to social and economic development based on human rights, paying special attention to the condition of the most vulnerable children.
To pursue socially responsible policies in all spheres of development, which always keep the needs of children in mind.
Increase donor and government investment in childhood, with national budgets assessed and analyzed based on their impact on childhood.
Engage individuals, families, the private sector and communities to improve children’s lives and use their resources to promote and protect children’s rights.
“The approval of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the moment when, on a global level, it was clearly stated that human progress can only be achieved when every child enjoys a healthy and protected childhood – said the UNICEF Director-General – But the quality of life of a child depends on the decisions we make every day in the family, in our communities and in the government rooms; decisions that we must make wisely and with the child’s best interests in mind. If we fail to make childhood safe, we will also fail to achieve broader global goals regarding human rights and economic development. If childhood progresses, nations also progress. “

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