Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on Rights of the Child, a landmark declaration. Since then this has been built on with last year’s Manifesto for Children. Yet a disturbing report today from the charity World Vision shows that nearly nine million children won’t see their fifth birthday – that’s 8.8 million or 24,000 deaths. As mum of a five year old it’s a shocker.

All this is largely preventable: vitamin and mineral supplements to beat malnutrition  (like Oral Rehydration Salts that cost 10p)  and proper postnatal care to prevent post pregnancy complications and infections could turn this around but an agreement made in 2000 by the UN and Western governments to reduce infant mortality by two thirds by 2015 is falling way short of its target.

World Vision is now campaigning for rich countries to increase their commitment to health from the current level of $16 billion a year to $42.5 billion by 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goals –  equivalent to five days of health spending in the USA. Significant progress has been achieved eg in Malawi, of every 1,000 babies born, 125 more children survived to their fifth birthdays in 2008 than they did in 1990. But there’s a long way to go.

Ways in which you can do your bit to increase awareness are listed here. If all this wasn’t so far away it’d be more widely considered scandalous – which it is in the 9th year of the new century.