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Dec 16, 1999

UNICEF launches report on world’s children

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Startling statistics about poverty, teenage pregnancy and other issues were pasted to the wall of the Santa Rita room at the Radisson Fort George today as UNICEF launched its report on the State of the World’s Children 2000. The National Committee for Families and Children and the Human Development Department co-hosted the launch which included video messages about children’s rights and a song performed by the Hattieville Government School. The presence of the children reminded everyone why they were there: to examine the conditions Belizean children, and children all over the world, live under as 1999 draws to a close. The report calls on national leaders to devote more resources and attention to HIV/AIDS, poverty, armed conflicts, child labor and discrimination against women and children. While Belize has a long way to go in many areas the report does commend us for being one of only five countries in the developing world that devotes a significant portion — twenty percent — of its national budget to social services. But the statistics also show that one third of Belizean families are living in poverty, that only sixty-one percent of our children are completing primary school and nineteen percent of all babies are born to teenage mothers, still children themselves. UNICEF’s new representative to Belize Miguel Ugalde may have just arrived yesterday, but he has definite ideas about the areas the UN agency will be focusing on in Belize in the year 2000.

Miguel A. Ugalde, UNICEF Representative

“This State of the World’s Children Report 2000 highlights very important concerns for the present and for next year. This is the HIV/AIDS. It is very important to know that AIDS is not a health problem; it is really an education problem, it’s a family problem, it’s a relationship problem, early education and development.

There is a very small percentage of Belizean children that attend pre-school, the pre-primary education. And it is the age in which the personality, the character, and the brain is developed.

Then what we call the child’s right approach, we have to look for all the pockets of poverty. All the problems of marginalized minorities, marginalized majorities, or ethnic problems.”

This morning four women were honored for their outstanding contribution to the children of Belize. They are former social worker Elsa August, teacher, volunteer and boxing coach Henrietta Gill, Principal of Grace Primary School Gloria Edwards and the Executive Director of the Red Cross Audrey Courtenay.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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