UNICEF urged the world to help the 1 billion children still deprived of food, shelter, clean water or health care — and the hundreds of millions more threatened by violence — two decades after the U.N. adopted a treaty guaranteeing children's rights.
On the eve of the anniversary, the U.N. children's agency issued a report Thursday on the challenges ahead and the accomplishments since the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman called a sharp decline in child deaths a "remarkable achievement," and lauded the increasing number of children attending primary school.
More than 70 countries have used the treaty to incorporate children's rights in their national laws, she said, noting a new focus on safeguarding youngsters "from violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation."
Only two nations, the United States and Somalia, have not ratified it.
Still, much remains to be done. Veneman said it was unacceptable that more than 24,000 children under the age of 5 die every day from preventable causes like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. Nearly 200 million youngsters are chronically malnourished, more than 140 million are forced to work, and millions of girls and boys of all ages are subjected to sexual violence.
UNICEF urged countries to put the rights of all children, especially the needy and the suffering, at the center of their policies and budgets because children are the future.
The Associated Press has contributed to the report.