Girls’ Lack of Education Increases Risk of HIV Infection, Threatens Economic Development, UNICEF Report Says
More than 121 million children are out of school worldwide, including 65 million girls, increasing the likelihood that they will die in childbirth or live in poverty, according to UNICEF's "State of the World's Children 2004" report, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Koppel, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/12). The situation is a "serious global emergency" that threatens economic development and leaves girls open to exploitation and HIV infection, the report says, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 12/11). The situation is most serious in sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of girls left out of school annually has increased from 20 million in 1990 to 24 million in 2002, the Los Angeles Times reports (Farley, Los Angeles Times, 12/12). According to the report, girls who are not educated are more vulnerable to poverty, hunger, violence, abuse, exploitation and trafficking and they are more likely to die in childbirth and are at greater risk of disease, including HIV/AIDS. However, educated girls have a positive impact on their offspring. As mothers, educated women are more likely to have healthy children, and they are more likely to ensure that their children attend school, according to a UNICEF release (UNICEF release, 12/11). UNICEF recommends that government leaders consider education an "essential component" of development efforts and that industrialized countries allocate 10% of foreign aid to programs aimed at improving basic education, especially for girls, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 12/11). The report also calls for donor countries to provide $60 billion in education aid between 2003 and 2015 and for the cancellation of school fees, the Boston Globe reports.
David Dollar, director of development policy at the World Bank who coauthored a study on gender inequality and growth, said that higher education rates for girls have led to reduced infant and maternal mortality rates and birth rates, according to the Globe (Donnelly, Boston Globe, 12/12). "We stand no chance of substantially reducing poverty, child mortality, HIV/AIDS and other diseases if we do not ensure that all girls and boys can exercise their right to a basic education," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said (Gralla, Reuters, 12/11). U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, "No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health -- including helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. No other policy is as powerful in increasing the chances of education for the next generation" (UNICEF, "State of the World's Children 2004," 12/11).