UNICEF says Children's Lives Are Improving

But 20 years after the adoption of a treaty guaranteeing children's rights, hundreds of millions still go without basics like food and health care, and violence against children remains a global problem.

It's 20 years since the United Nations adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights and now the U.N. says children's lives have been transformed during those two decades. But it says there's a lot still to be done - to this day hundreds of millions go without basics like food and health care and violence against children remains a global problem. Selah Hennessy brings us this report from London.

The United Nations Children's Fund, commonly known as UNICEF, released a special report to mark this 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
VOA spoke to the author of the report, David Anthony. He said globally the lives of children have improved over the last 20 years.
"During its era, we have seen tremendous progress in child survival and development," he said. "For example, on average 10,000 fewer children now die every day than they did in 1990 - that's something that saves countless of millions of lives over the years."

The report lists a series of positive statistics showing great leaps in children's quality of life. It says globally 84 percent of primary-school-age children are in class and the gender gap is narrowing. And important steps have been taken, it says, to protect children from serving as soldiers or being trafficked into prostitution.

But Anthony adds there is still a long way to go. He says as many as one billion children still live without basic necessities such as clean water and food. And he says more needs to be done in the fields of protection and participation - the right of all children to have their opinions taken into account.

These problems, Anthony says, are global.

"You find that violence is something that no society can say it's immune from," he said. "I think protection in particular, and participation, are things which the industrialized countries, and the richer countries, cannot feel any great superiority over the developing countries and the least developed countries."

More than 70 countries have adopted the convention's principles into their own legal codes. Only two countries in the world, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified the treaty.  The U.S. has been slow to approve the Convention because of fears of government interference in family life.
Anthony says although the convention has the widest support of any human rights treaty, not all countries are implementing its basic principles.
"One of the main emphasis of this report has been implementation," he said. "Countries who ratify the treaties - who sign the treaties - then have an obligation to implement them and the symbolism I think of endorsement is most welcome but the more important thing is that all countries apply the principles that are embodied within the convention and to ensure that all of their children have their rights met."

The report says despite progress, 24,000 children under the age of five die every day from largely preventable causes. And it says 150 million children between five and 14 are engaged in child labor.

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