For the last 40 years costumed volunteers have added a special touch to Halloween: Trick-or-treat for UNICEF. Volunteers support the effort, from young hobgoblins soliciting change with orange collection boxes to teen-agers raising money at dances to adults having fund-raisers. Every 10 cents puts a child suffering diarrheal dehydration back on the road to health, and every $10 immunizes a child for life against deadly killers.
The United Nations Children's Fund has remained dedicated to bringing essential services to communities devastated by war, drought, famine and disease. At the close of World War II, 23.8 million children a year were dying. Emergency relief efforts cut that dramatically. Still, 40,000 children under the age of five die every day from ailments that could be prevented or cured.
The first World Summit for Children, held at the United Nations Sept. 29-30, brought together more than 70 world leaders to focus attention on the needs of the young. It produced few concrete results, but it did push the well-being of children up a few notches on the political agenda.
UNICEF emphasizes four health measures:
* Growth monitoring to allow parents to detect early signs of malnutrition. A $36 scale permits an entire village to keep records on weight gains.
* Oral rehydration to prevent deaths from diarrhea, the world's leading cause of child deaths. Mixed with water, a 10-cent packet of salts allows a child to absorb 20 times more fluid.
* Breast-feeding, the ideal method of feeding an infant. Mother's milk confers natural immunities against infection, helps prevent dehydration and reduces the severity of respiratory illnesses.
* Immunization to help stem the 3 million child deaths caused by preventable diseases each year.
The small change collected by children adds up. It provides clean water, health care, vaccinations and education to families in 128 countries. These are children helping children, and they deserve support this Halloween.