Vatican City (Fides Service) – Addressing the 56th plenary assembly of the World Health Organisation in Geneva, the President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Health Workers, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragan spoke of the concerning situation of children in the world. The main cause of disease among children is still poverty: Poverty continues to be the principal cause of sickness during childhood. One thousand two hundred million people live on less than a dollar a day. Even in the richest countries one child in every six lives under the poverty threshold. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing greater. 30% of children under the age of five suffer from hunger or malnutrition, and 50% of the whole of the Sub-Saharan population of Africa does not have access to drinking water.
Over the last decade, more than two million children have been killed in armed conflicts, six million children have suffered disabilities, and tens of thousands of children have been mutilated as a result of anti-personnel mines. During the course of 2002 three hundred thousand children were recruited as soldiers. Over four million three hundred thousand children have died in recent years of AIDS. Every day, seven thousand children fall sick with AIDS, and in Africa alone over fourteen million children have been made orphans because of this disease. The Archbishop stressed the need to give priority to mother-child health, that infectious diseases afflicting children should be prevented, that accidents should be avoided, and that the physical environment should be improved, in particular in relation to water, hygiene, environmental pollution, the ways in which diseases are spread, the dangers generated by chemicals, accidents, and the behaviour of children and adolescents, their psycho-social development. AP (Fides Service 22/5/2003 EM lines 23 Words: 253)