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New UN Publication Aims to Save Children's Lives - 2002-03-11

Two United Nations agencies are launching a health publication they hope will save children's lives.

The World Health Organization and the U.N's children's agency, UNICEF, say that nearly 11 million children die every year from preventable and treatable causes. And most of these deaths - about 90 percent of them - occur at home.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the agency is issuing an updated version of a booklet called "Facts for Life." The goal of the booklet, she says, is to save the lives of young people by providing basic medical information to families that don't have access to a doctor.

"One of the strongest things about the publication is that there are countries where there is only one doctor for thousands of citizens. And "Facts for Life" is revolutionizing people's lives by delivering simple health messages that individuals and families in every corner of the world can apply. People who work in places like Kenya or Guatemala or elsewhere use this as lessons that families themselves can apply when children get sick, if they cannot otherwise reach medical help."

Ms. Belmonte says the new version of "Facts for Life" contains information on injury prevention and HIV/AIDS, as well as steps to take to save lives during disasters and emergencies. The booklet has been translated into 215 languages and will be officially released Tuesday at a U.N. conference in Stockholm on child and adolescent health.

The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, says that of the 11 million children who die each year, eight million are babies. Dr. Brundtland says that pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and measles are the main killers of babies.

She believes the vast majority of these deaths can be prevented - but only when governments commit themselves, politically and financially, to saving these lives.

The leader of the World Health Organization says a little money, used properly, can go a long way. She notes that diarrhea can be treated for as little as 33 cents with oral rehydration salt packets and measles vaccine costs 26 cents a dose.