UNICEF: Abuse of women pervasive worldwide
Poor sanitation also cited
July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 11:57 a.m. EDT (1557 GMT)
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(CNN) -- Violence against women -- including genital
mutilation, dowry killings and domestic abuse -- is the "most
pervasive violation of human rights in the world today," the
United Nations Children's Fund said Tuesday.
UNICEF's annual Progress of Nations report also warns of
heightened risk of wide-scale epidemics of cholera or other
diseases because half the world's people do not have access
to a toilet or even a decent latrine.
And it denounces the worldwide "relentless promotion" of
breast milk substitutes.
Women at risk
The report highlights violence against females because it
affects children around the world and delivers a broad
picture on how countries develop, a UNICEF spokesman said.
Among the findings:
More then 60 million women who might otherwise be alive
today are "missing" because of gender discrimination,
predominantly in south and west Asia, China and North Africa.
In the United States, where overall violent crime against
women has been growing for the past two decades, a woman is
physically abused by her intimate partner every nine seconds.
In India, more than 5,000 women are killed each year
because their inlaws consider their dowries inadequate.
About 2 million girls each year are genitally mutilated by
the removal of their labia minora or clitoris. In 28
countries, mostly in Africa, the procedure is called female
circumcision and is considered a rite of passage into
"In today's world, to be born female is to be born high
risk. Every girl grows up under the threat of violence,"
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a statement.
In its section on sanitation, the report said:
The number of people lacking decent sanitation has grown
from 2.6 billion in 1990 to 2.9 billion now, driven by
population growth, urban crowding and pressures on the
budgets of developing countries.
Waste-contaminated water supplies increase the risk of
diarrhea, which kills 2.2 million children each year. It also
pollutes open areas and attracts vermin that carry disease.
The problem is most acute in rural areas, where only 18
percent of people worldwide have access to a toilet or
latrine. In urban areas of developing countries, 63
percent have decent sanitation.
The figures are approximate because UNICEF used data from
countries with widely varying definitions of "adequate"
Infant formula called risky
UNICEF, which calls breast milk a "live and incredibly
complex substance, containing all the nutrients vital for
nourishment," says infant formula "is not just inferior; it
can cause disease or even death."
The report accuses infant formula manufacturers of violating
a 1981 agreement not to "market or distribute in such a way
as to interfere with the promotion of breastfeeding."
In developing countries where water supplies may be infected
with diseases, powdered formula feeding poses many risks,
It estimates that "improved breastfeeding practices" could
save the lives of an nearly 1.5 million children a year.
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