Letter: Millennium children

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The Independent Culture
Letter: Millennium children

Sir: Over the past two or three years, the state of the world's computers and their pending encounter with the year 2000 has received a great deal of attention and concern. Estimates of the cost of fixing Y2K have been set

at $600bn.

Despite the alarmed predictions and huge cost, there is little doubt that the extra money can be found, and the problem solved, one way or another.

Yet a much more serious problem, the survival of millions of children living in poverty, is addressed with no such concern, even though the cost of solving this problem is a small fraction of that which will be required to fix the world's computers.

Plans for the world's children in 2000 were made long before the state of the world's computers became a global media darling. In 1990 the heads of 71 countries met and agreed on a bold plan to improve the lives of the poorest of the world's children. They agreed to a set of goals for 2000, for better basic health care, clean water and sanitation, improved maternal and reproductive health, and primary education.

Significant progress has been made. For example, the United Nations Children's Fund figures show that by 1995, improved child immunisation saved over 3 million children's lives each year. Yet about 2 million children still die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Progress for the very poor is possible for amounts that, on a global scale, are pocket change.

It is not the means we lack, merely the will. The turning of the millennium will be a historic moment for humanity. Let's include even the very poor, the uneducated, and the most vulnerable in the celebration, by committing to fund our unfinished business for the world's poorest children in the year 2000.

BLAISE SALMON

Victoria, British Columbia

Canada

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