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Once a solid hunch, today it is an absolute certainty that children are central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Progress towards ending extreme poverty and its deadly effects can be accurately measured by monitoring the status of children. Midway through the first decade of the 21st century, there is cause for alarm, as young people throughout the developing world are in grave danger.

If the entire population of Seoul (Republic of Korea) died within one year, shock waves would reverberate throughout the world. Yet, the more than 10 million deaths each year of children under age five barely evoke a tremor. The fact that two thirds of these deaths are preventable makes this statistic even more tragic. Like a canary in an oxygen-deprived coal mine, the deaths of children across the globe are a stark warning that, at the current pace, the world will fail to meet the deadlines for the Millennium Development Goals.

Nearly 4 million infants do not survive their first month of life. Half a million women die in pregnancy each year, leaving countless infants and children motherless. One child in six is severely hungry. One in seven receives no health care. More than 1 billion people do not have access to potable water, and 40 per cent of the world’s population live without basic sanitation. Some 115 million primary-school- age children do not attend school, with girls

disproportionately excluded. Even though vaccine-preventable diseases are on the decline, acute respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases, child and maternal undernutrition, unhealthy home environments and accidents cut down unfathomable numbers of children.*

HIV/AIDS continues to devastate communities, countries and continents. An estimated 2.3 million children are infected with HIV, millions more are affected due to parental illness, and 15 million have been orphaned. School systems have been decimated as qualified teachers and school administrators have fallen sick or died from AIDS.

Children continue to be disproportionately affected by war, whether recruited as soldiers or displaced and left homeless by armed conflict or other disasters, and they are frequently victims of violence. Young people are trafficked as chattel, fall prey to commercial sexual exploitation and are entrapped in the worst forms of labour.

The deadline for the Millennium Development Goals is rapidly approaching. The urgent need to meet time-sensitive benchmarks drives UNICEF’s dedication to children, its commitment to efficiency and accountability, its recognition of the synergy of the goals themselves and its ongoing partnerships with the public and private sectors.

  • *

    All data throughout this report are based on the most recent available estimates.


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