UNICEF Releases State of the World’s Children 2003 Report; Says HIV/AIDS ‘Increasing Threat’ to Children
Children in the world's poorest countries face an "increasing threat" from HIV/AIDS, according to UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2003 report, the Canadian Press reports. The report ranks sub-Saharan Africa as the worst place for children's well-being, with Sierra Leone as the number-one country where children are likely to die before age five. UNICEF officials said that children in the poorest nations are more susceptible to contracting HIV and that the spread of the disease is producing an "ever-growing cohort of orphans," detracting from children's overall well-being, according to the Canadian Press. David Agnew, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada, said "[T]here are not just some trouble spots and persistent stubborn places where the numbers haven't gone down as fast -- they've actually in some cases reversed, and I think unfortunately we have to point the finger at HIV/AIDS as really one of the major causes." Worldwide, about 6,000 people under age 18 are infected with HIV every day, and there are 13.5 million AIDS orphans, according to the report (Szklarski, Canadian Press, 12/11).
The annual report focuses on the participation of children in a global dialogue about how they can "constructively engage in issues that affect their lives," according to a UNICEF release. Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, today introduced the report in Mexico City, Mexico, where she took part in talks with children and President Vicente Fox. The Americas have been a "leader in recognizing and implementing child rights," Bellamy said. In addition to encouraging children to actively pursue their own well-being, the report also says "access to information is a matter of survival ... most urgently today in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic." Surveys gathered from 40 nations showed more than 50% of people ages 15 to 24 "harbor serious misconceptions" about the transmission of HIV/AIDS (UNICEF release, 12/11). Last year's report said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of the "cruelest political and social problems in the world" for children and called for more global leadership to fight the disease (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/21/01).