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October 20, 1998
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Stop global child abuse
We are living in a time marked by speeches entitled "Children First" and "Family Values," but more children are currently suffering from disease, poverty, and malnutrition than ever before.

By Ralph Nader

Recently a statement on Children and Poverty by the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church came to my attention. Its opening words ring with unspeakable daily tragedies: "Malnutrition kills an estimated thirty-five thousand children every day. Approximately 10 million children die of poverty-related causes each year.

During the last decade alone, wars have slaughtered 2 million and disabled between four and 5 million children. More than 5 million have been forced into refugee camps, and at least 12 million have been left without homes. More children than soldiers now die from war. Some 80 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 work for low wages in often dangerous conditions to supply inexpensive products for citizens of more affluent nations."

On Oct. 6, 1998, the president of The World Bank, James D. Wolfensohn, chided his fellow financiers to pay attention to how people are suffering: "Today," he said, "while we talk of financial crisis -- across the world, 1.3 billion people live on less than $1 a day; 3 billion live on under $2 a day; 1.3 billion have no access to clean water; 3 billion have no access to sanitation; 2 billion have no access to power. We talk of financial crisis while in Jakarta, in Moscow, in sub-Saharan Africa, in the slums of India, and in the barrios of Latin America, the human pain of poverty is all around us. We must address this human pain."

One might add still other outrageous instances of neglect to this list. Consider the 1 million children in Africa who die from malaria every year. That's equivalent to about seven Boeing 747 crashes each day!

All this is occurring as global capitalism sweeps across the planet. But, oh, the imperfections. The giant drug companies don't bother to invest in tuberculosis and malaria vaccine research because they claim it's not profitable. In the meantime, six million people -- many of them children -- lose their lives to these diseases every year. Still, pharmaceutical companies would rather develop drugs to curb baldness, overeating and declining sexual potency for customers who can pay lots of money than help the children.

What do we tell the children who suffer from these afflictions? That the generation which brought them into this world has little time to alleviate their pain?

We must overthrow the obstacles that undermine our compassion for the plight of those who suffer. We must use all available knowledge and resources -- both medical and economic -- to attack global hunger and homelessness. We must demand that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan tell Congress that a U.S. economy that allows 25 percent of the children in our country to grow up in poverty can never be described optimistically.

We need a fresh core of leaders within our communities and at the national level to show our society that our children matter.

Those of you who would like to suggest such a leader should send their name to one of the most successful children's advocates in our country -- law professor and director of the Children's Advocacy Institute, Robert C. Fellmeth -- 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110.

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