Opinion » Columnists

International Day of the Child

June 1st was the International Day of the Child, celebrated in joy or suffered in silence, depending upon the accident called a birthplace.
Across the developed world, events took place yesterday to celebrate the International Day of the Child. Presents were given and received, school trips were organized to theatres, book fairs and cinemas, sports and plastic arts events were held. Not so in all countries, however.

The birthplace - an accident - jealously guarded against immigrants by some and coveted jealously by others, spells the difference between whether an International Day or a birthday or an anniversary is celebrated, or lived through in suffering.

A glance around the world tells us how much we still have to achieve and shows clearly that those who think mankind has reached a level which can be called Civilization could not be more wrong.

Serious food shortages in nearly three dozen countries mean that a square meal once a day is a dream for many millions of children, instead of being a certainty. In Western Sudan, the United Nations Organization's attempt to feed the million displaced persons has been hampered because it has received
just three million of the 8.8 million USD needed - while George Bush squanders two hundred thousand million dollars in Iraq. On war. On killing.

In Columbia, more than one million children under 17 years of age are working. Sexual exploitation of children is increasing. In Brazil, 1.1 million children under 17 are still illiterate. To be born in Angola automatically means a life expectancy of 40, while almost half of the country's children are out of school, 45% suffer from chronic malnutrition and a quarter of the country's children die before they reach the age of five.

In Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of children suffer from HIV/AIDS, or are affected by war and genocide. In Afghanistan, infant mortality is 165 per 1,000 live births and the infant mortality rate is 257 per 1,000 live births. In Bangladesh, 900 children die every day (325,000 every year) from disease, malnutrition and accidents.

These statistics do not make the front page. The deaths of three or two or one American soldier killed while invading Iraq do. This is the world we have created, this is the world we live in. We live in a world dominated by a body of corporate chiefs, an anonymous elite who are interested in feathering their own nests and nothing else.

How can we call ourselves civilized when hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars are wasted on an illegal war, while elsewhere, children, our responsibility and our future, do not even have access to a glass of safe drinking water?

The International Day of the Child was a happy, fun event for those lucky enough to be born in the right place at the right time. Let us all spare a thought for those who were not so lucky, who were born into living hell by the accident called a birthplace, and let us do something about it.

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