Over 1 billion children said to be threatened


LONDON - Governments are failing the children of the world, with more than 1 billion living in a state of severe threat from hunger, disease, exploitation or lack of security, the United Nations children's agency said yesterday.

In a distressing indictment, UNICEF said that in spite of some pockets of progress this year, "we've failed to deliver on the promise of childhood."

"Too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood," UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said as she unveiled the agency's annual State of the World's Children report.

Among the report's findings:

640 million of the world's 2.2 billion children lack adequate shelter;

500 million children have no access to sanitation;

400 million lack safe water;

270 million receive no health care;

140 million, mostly girls, receive no education;

90 million are severely deprived of nutrition.

Even in developed countries, UNICEF said, the proportion of children living in low-income households has risen.

Bellamy said at a conference in Pakistan this week that nearly 10 million children younger than 5 die each year of diseases such as diarrhea and measles.

The report released yesterday calls attention to the plight of children in war, with tens of thousands killed, maimed or raped each year. It details the hardships of children in northern Uganda and the Darfur region of Sudan.

In Uganda, children crowd into urban sanctuaries to avoid being forced to join the Lord's Resistance Army guerrilla group, only to routinely endure rape or other forms of abuse.

"The idea of childhood as a protected time of healthy growth has been effectively obliterated in northern Uganda," the report said, noting that 10,000 to 12,000 children have been taken by the guerrillas in recent years to become soldiers, porters or sexual slaves.

Another trend is the explosion in the number of children orphaned by HIV and AIDS, 80 percent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. There are 15 million AIDS orphans, and the number continues to rise.

The number of children exploited in the multibillion-dollar global commercial sex industry is 2 million, the report says.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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