CURRENT AFFAIRS UNIT, RADIO KWARA, ILORIN
PROGRAMME: NEWS COMMENTARY
DATE OF BROADCAST: 22/12/88 AT 1810 HOURS
WRITER: LANRE KAWU
Speaking via satellite, from Delhi, the Indian Capital, James Grant, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has this week, presented his State of the World’s Children Report for 1988. The report said half a million children died in 1988, as a result of problems connected with the debt crisis of the developing countries. James Grant described the situation as “a shameful outrage” to the whole world. The past eight to ten years, which has witnessed a march of human progress, has become a retreat in the countries concerned. These are mainly in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
The UNICEF Report went further to state that nine hundred million people in the three regions, which make up about one sixth of the world’s population, are seriously affected. In these regions, average incomes have dropped between ten and twenty five percent between 1980 and 1988. While there have been dramatic cuts in social spending. This includes about fifty percent cut in health spending and about forty percent cut in spending on education.
The root of the present crisis, according to the UNICEF Report, can be traced to the late 1970s, when loans were “irresponsibly taken and irresponsibly granted”. These loans went into the building of non-productive projects, or ended up in the private accounts of the various government officials in these countries. As UNICEF stated, the burden of repayment of these loans, has now fallen on risk groups such as the poor, women and children.
It is interesting to note, that the UNICEF Report coincided with a World Bank Report on the International Debt Table. That Report, says that the total debt of the developing countries will reach 1.3 trillion Dollars by the end of this month. That Report also stated that the per capita income of developing countries is lower now, than at any other time in the past fifteen years.
It further said that our countries cannot meet their debt obligations, because of the perennial slide in the prices of the raw materials we export. The World Bank Report, envisages a situation where our societies will be under the permanent implementation of Structural Adjustment regimes. In other words, more unemployment, more retrenchments, greater foreign control of our economies, and more deaths for the children of the poor.
On the contrary, the UNICEF Report on the State of the World’s Children, calls for aid for development to have as a central concept the needs of people. This is against the present Structural Adjustment obsession, with fiscal indicators. It is quite clear, that there were some gains also. For instance, fifty percent of children around the world are now immunised against the deadly diseases, while 200,000 children are now being saved from polio affliction.
These gains are however, overshadowed by the tragic indices already enumerated. UNICEF in the Report, finally called for a World Summit for Children. The call has already received the sympathetic responses of the Heads of State of Indonesia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. The present situation of the World’s Children, is a powerful indictment of the international economic imbalances. It is a powerful statement for the re-ordering of these imbalances in a democratic manner, to meet the genuine yearnings of the peoples.