Statement on the United Nations Children's Fund

April 18, 1983

For nearly a quarter of a century, the United States has generously offered resources and know-how to give a better, healthier life to ill and malnourished people throughout the world. Despite past efforts and progress by the United States and many other countries, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recently reported that over 40,000 children in developing countries still die every day, victims of malnutrition and disease. This is a tragedy of global proportions and requires a global effort in response.

UNICEF is now pursuing a ``health revolution'' for children in developing countries that involves a new combination of technological and social approaches to health. It is estimated that this combination, coupled with networks of trained health workers backed by government services and international assistance, can save the lives of 20,000 children each day within a decade. Moreover, literally hundreds of millions of young lives would be healthier.

One technological achievement has been the development and distribution of an inexpensive home treatment for diarrhea, a major contributor to deaths among young children in developing countries. This treatment was developed after years of research in the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh. The United States has contributed to that institution for more than 20 years. The World Health Organization has also been a focal point for international support and study of diarrheal diseases.

A second element is the development of low-cost vaccines which do not require refrigeration and which can be used in remote areas to protect children from such killers as measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, and tuberculosis.

Another factor is the promotion of breast feeding for its nutritional and hygienic value, as well as its immunological qualities. Still another is a simple infant weight chart kept by the child's mother which indicates a child's progress at monthly weighings, making malnutrition quickly detectable. Its design and use have been improved and tested in United States-supported maternal-child health programs around the world. UNICEF has found that a great portion of malnutrition cases are due to the problem going undetected rather than lack of food in the family.

The American people have always been in the vanguard of support for children's health and well-being. As President of the United States, I am asking the American people to help bring about a health revolution for children during the coming decade by supporting UNICEF's humanitarian program.