December 12, 2003
U.S. Fund for UNICEF Leaders Discuss State of the World's Children
Nearly 65 million girls worldwide never see the inside of a classroom each year, according to the findings of UNICEF's State of World's Children report. The 2004 report, which was released on December 11, focuses on the education of girls as one of the most crucial issues facing the international development community. Charles J. "Chip" Lyons, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and Christine Sarbanes, president of the Baltimore Chapter of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, visited the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to launch the report and discuss the findings with students and faculty.
The report states that every year, nine million more girls than boys do not receive basic education. Girls who are denied the right to an education are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, poverty, hunger, abuse, and exploitation. Lyons explained that unless improvements are made, there is little or no chance to reverse the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He said the education of girls is an "essential precondition" for all the world's other development goals.
The report says nations must recognize the value of educating girls as well as boys and include education as an essential component in development plans. The international community must also increase funding for education. Another step needed is the elimination of school fees, which the report found to be the single largest obstacle to girls going to school.
Lyons pointed to Kenya as an example where progress is being made. The nation recently abolished school fees, enabling one million more children to attend classes annually. He also noted improvements in Afghanistan, where girls are returning to the classroom for the first time since the Taliban rule ended. Now, three million boys and one million girls attend school with UNICEF aid. Dr. Carl Taylor, professor in the School's Department of International Health, also discussed his recent work in the Bamian and Takhar districts where new schools were formed. The event was sponsored by the School's J.B. Grant International Health Society.