Children's Suffering

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New approaches to children's health promote interventions that reduce several risk factors simultaneously, such as improving household sanitation and hygiene. Reducing malnutrition, which affects 200 million children worldwide, is another important goal. Governments can work to prevent crop failures leading to famines, reduce parasite infestation, and promote breastfeeding and better nutrition. Improving child nutrition also involves increasing the incomes of poor families.

This holistic approach also reflects the growing understanding that an individual's health as a child is linked to his or her health in later life. Some causes of poor health in later life including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high blood pressure may originate before birth from undernourishment of the developing fetus.

The education of the children today and in the next century will be key to improving the quality of their lives and, by extension, the future society. Most countries promote the goal of universal education at the primary level and closing the gap between girls' and boys' educational levels. Because of rapid increases in the number of children in many countries, coupled with economic stagnation or even decline, meeting these goals will require a much greater commitment by national governments and international donors. UNICEF estimates that the number of illiterate people is increasing and will near 1 billion by 2000. Two-thirds of these people will be women.