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« on: May 03, 2006, 01:31:51 AM »,,1765755,00.html
The world is failing children despite global commitments to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015, Unicef said today.

The average number of underweight children has fallen by only 5% in the last 15 years, and one in four children in developing countries is underweight, according to a new Unicef report.

In some countries, including Iraq, Yemen and parts of Africa, the number is actually increasing due to conflict, food shortages and the prevalence of HIV/Aids, the study by the UN's children's rights group found.

The report, Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, found 27% of children in developing countries, or around 146 million, are underweight, many to a life-threatening degree.

More than half live in just three countries - Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In India, around 47% of under-fives are underweight.

"The lack of progress to combat malnutrition is damaging children and nations," Unicef's executive director, Ann Veneman said. "Few things have more impact than nutrition on a child's ability to survive, learn effectively and escape a life of poverty."

As well as those who were "visibly undernourished" there were many more children who were seriously deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, she said.

The organisation said that poor nutrition contributes to more than half the worldwide total of 5.6 million child deaths a year.

Unicef's report is intended to measure progress towards the first UN Millennium development goal - to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by 2015.

The commitment, to which the world's governments and development institutions have signed up, would mean halving the proportion of children who are underweight for their age.

But the study shows only two regions - Latin America and the Caribbean and the east Asia and Pacific region - are on track to meet the target.

Unicef said poverty, lack of education and inequality were behind widespread malnutrition, with unsafe feeding practices and illnesses such as diarrhoea and malaria also contributing.

"We still have time to achieve this goal but only if the international community acts now to deliver the commitment and resources it has promised," Ms Veneman said.
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