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Important Message for 2008 Universal Children's Day

"Unacceptable and Inexcusable"

25,000 young children will die today for lack of basic survival needs

UNICEF USA Appeals for Public Involvement, Presidential Initiative to Save 9.2 Million Children Annually

NEW YORK, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Calling the daily preventable deaths of 25,000 children worldwide 'profoundly shameful and unnecessary', the U.S. Fund for UNICEF today marked Universal Children's Day by launching "Believe in Zero", a campaign that encourages policy makers and the general public to reduce daily child deaths from 25,000 to zero.

"These children are not dying from incurable diseases or causes. These children are dying from diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and malaria---things that cost pennies to treat or prevent," said Caryl Stern, President and C.E.O., U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "It is unacceptable and inexcusable that defenseless children continue to die when the technology, expertise and solutions to save them exist right now."

In 1980, the annual rate of under-five child deaths hovered at 14.6 million, which totaled 40,000 children a day. By 1990 that number was reduced to 12.7 million children annually. Last year annual child deaths declined to about 9.2 million, in spite of rapid population growth, many prolonged civil conflicts and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

UNICEF health experts cite basic health interventions, such as the immunization of children, the use of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria, and the provision of vitamin A supplementation as leading factors in the reduction of child deaths. The basic cost of a lifetime vaccination package, which includes, vaccinations against measles/mumps/rubella, polio, tetanus and meningitis, as well as the tools to administer the vaccines, totals $17.

The U.S. Fund led initiative will be rolled-out over multiple platforms and comprises a series of Believe in Zero PSAs scheduled to run on cable television networks and network affiliates as well as radio. The PSAs feature an ensemble cast of UNICEF supporters and ambassadors including: Lucy Liu, Laurence Fishburne, Al Roker, Nicole Richie, Joel Madden, Rachael Ray, Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa. The PSA spots will be complemented by a campaign creative appearing in national print publications and select online spaces with a particular focus on social media sites like Facebook.

The Believe in Zero campaign includes an effort to create a Presidential Initiative to Accelerate Child Survival. Riding the wave of unprecedented political enthusiasm that characterized this presidential campaign season and underscoring a deep sense of urgency, the Believe in Zero campaign encourages Americans to sign a petition addressed to President-elect Barack Obama, urging his administration to provide immediate leadership on the issue.

The petition, which is posted on the Believe in Zero micro-site, specifically calls for a dramatic scale-up of the coordinated, high-impact interventions that are proven to save children's lives in even the poorest communities around the world. The initiative would provide $1 billion a year for the next five years to implement accelerated child survival strategies in the countries with the highest child mortality rates. UNICEF calculates that an investment of this amount from the U.S. Government could save 3 million children's lives by 2012.

"Since joining UNICEF two years ago, I have met mothers around the world who've shared with me the anguish of losing their children to preventable causes," said Stern. "As a mother of three, I am deeply grateful that my children are healthy and safe. As an American, I am extremely proud of our legacy for standing up to injustice and suffering, and I know that my fellow citizens care as deeply as I do about innocent children dying because they are not visible or vocal enough to register the outrage of the world. Let's get this done - we need everyone to donate and advocate until we reach zero preventable deaths."


Established in 1954 by the United Nations General Assembly, Universal Children's Day is observed worldwide to promote the welfare of the world's children. The landmark UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted on November 20th in 1989, and that is also the date when most countries formally recognize the international community's obligation to help children who are struggling for survival.


For more than 60 years, UNICEF has been the world's leading international children's organization, working in over 150 countries to address the ongoing problems that contribute to child mortality. UNICEF provides lifesaving nutrition, clean water, education, protection and emergency response saving more young lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world. While millions of children die every year of preventable causes like dehydration, upper respiratory infections and measles, UNICEF, with the support of partnering organizations and donors alike, has the global experience, resources and reach to give children the best hope of survival. For more information about UNICEF, please visit

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