Convention on the Rights of Child Birthday Marked Today

Today the Convention on the Rights of Child, the most ratified treaty in the world, turns 20 years old today. On November 20 1989, the Convention on the Rights of Child entered into force. Today only two countries remain outside the treaty: Somalia...and the United States. (Somalia is without a functioning government. The United States is without a functioning Senate.) To mark the anniversary, UNICEF released a report today, "State of the World's Children, 2009" and UNICEF director Ann Venemen highlighted some of the Convention's accomplishments.

Ms. Veneman said one of the Convention’s most significant achievements has been its contribution to a reduction in the annual number of deaths of children under the age of five – from 12.5 million in 1990 to fewer than 9 million in 2008.

She went on to point out that about 84 per cent of primary school-aged children are now in school, and the so-called gender gap – the numbers of boys compared to girls who are in school in the developing world – is shrinking, UN Dispatch reports.

It was also reported, to 13-year-old Mumo Katumo, the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an utter irrelevance. For the past year Mumo and her family have been struggling to stay alive in the drought-ridden Masinga district of eastern Kenya with little food or water and with no hope of going to school.

Mumo describes the pain of her hunger: "You go numb. You lose the ability to do anything. Sometimes I think it is like the feeling of dying."

Yet the convention was introduced to help children like Mumo, boys and girls who face a daily battle for survival in the face of extreme poverty. Twenty years ago, as director of Amnesty UK, I remember attending the London launch of the CRC and making a grand speech about this first binding piece of international law meant to help and protect children such as Mumo. Two decades later there is still much work to do, reports.

Meanwhile, the number of children dying before they reach the age of five in Russia fell by just over 50% between 1990 and 2008, a UNICEF report said.

The State of the World's Children report was released on Friday on the 20th anniversary of the United Nation's adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report said that Russia's under-5 mortality rate was 13 children per 1,000. In 1990, the figure was 27.

An identical 2008 figure was reported in Belarus, Bahamas, Lebanon, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Russia had a higher under-5 mortality rate than most European countries and the U.S.

The highest under-5 mortality rate was in Afghanistan, with 257 deaths per 1,000. The lowest figure was in Lichtenstein and San Marino, with just two deaths for every 1,000 children under the age of five, RIA Novosti reports.

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