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.