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Arab world makes much progress in child welfare but still has way to go - UN

New York, 11 April 2005
With rapid reduction in child mortality rates and major improvements in immunization, access to clean water and increased school attendance, Arab nations have come a long way in reaching global development targets, a senior United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official said today.

But some 7.5 million Arab children are still out of school, 13.5 million are working and several million are affected by armed conflict or threatened by other forms of violence, abuse and lack of opportunities to participate in decision making, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah told media representatives in Cairo.

"We need to empower young people and allow them to become assets in the development process. We recognize the need to engage young people in finding solutions. We need to work with the youth to address issues of curriculum reform, HIV/AIDS and the status of young girls in society," Ms. Salah said, presenting highlights of the report, "An Arab World Fit for Children."

The milestone review of progress achieved and pending challenges facing the children and young people living in Arab countries, carried out by UNICEF at the request of the Arab League, stresses the need for increased investment in children and reflects on priority areas for the development and implementation of the 2004-2015 Arab Plan of Action For Children, issued by the Arab Summit last year in Tunis, Tunisia.

"I am confident that future dialogue on the findings of this report will help address one of the key developmental issues that has so far remained largely absent from the ongoing reform debate in the Arab world: that is the issue of children," Ms. Salah said.

Protection measures in the Arab world need to be strengthened as children continue to face other forms of violence such as abuse, sexual exploitation and traditional harmful practices such as early marriage and honour killings, she noted.
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