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Report on Child Poverty Criticizes U.S. : Health: UNICEF survey finds other industrial nations are doing more to ensure survival of youths. It also says America ranks poorly in education.

September 23, 1993|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — The United Nations Children's Fund on Wednesday issued a report declaring that the child poverty rate in the United States is more than double that of other major industrial countries.

Among those nations, only children in the United States and Britain are worse off today than they were in 1970, the UNICEF report said in comparing the health of children worldwide.

Though not purposely timed to coincide with President Clinton's new health care reform proposals, the report makes the point that one out of five U.S. children live below the poverty level and suffer health problems because of it.

The report noted that "the percentage of children in (the United States) growing up without a father more than doubled from 1960 to the end of the 1980s," and it highlighted that the United States has "by far the highest murder rate for young people, with nine of 10 killings of youths in the industrialized world taking place there."

The report calls for improved statistical monitoring of the health and growth of the world's children, declaring: "It is time the standing and prestige of nations were assessed less by their military and economic prowess and more by the protection they provide for the lives, the health, the growth and the education of their children."

In child survival, the United States ranked 19th among industrial nations, with 11 deaths of children younger than 5 for every 1,000 live births; this compares with the five per 1,000 deaths in Sweden, which had the best record.

In education, the United States ranked 10th among industrial countries--along with Ireland and Poland--in the proportion of its children completing the first four grades of primary school.

That was well below America's chief economic competitors, including Germany and Japan.

In maternal mortality--the number of women who die from causes related to pregnancy or childbirth--the United States ranked only 14th, along with Britain and Austria, with eight maternal deaths for every 100,000 births.

Ireland is the safest country with only two maternal deaths for every 100,000 births--while the figure for sub-Saharan Africa is a staggering 590 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.

The report also pointed out that the United States is the only industrial nation that has neither signed nor ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, designed to protect children against exploitation, neglect and abuse.

The UNICEF report includes a category on the "performance" of nations in caring for their children, that is, child mortality rates compared with each country's wealth.

On this scale, the United States has the worst record among industrialized nations: Its child morality of 11 per 1,000 live births is higher than the eight per 1,000 which, the report says, should be expected for America's level of per capita gross national product.

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