“WE ARE CHILDREN who are not being heard; it is time we were taken into account,” Gabriela Azurdy Arrieta told the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children on this date in 2002. The Bolivian youngster and Audrey Cheynut, a seventeen-year-old from Monaco, read a message drafted by a 300-member children’s delegation to the meeting that reported that 10 million children still die every year from preventable diseases and 120 million are not in school. “We are street children,” said Arrieta, as quoted in The New York Times. “We are the children of war. We are the victims and orphans of H.I.V./AIDS.”
Arrieta’s words seemed to move the adults in the room. “Let us not make children pay for our failures any more,” said the U.N’s secretary general, Kofi Annan, to heads of state and the children, who represented more than 180 countries. “We the grown-ups must reverse this list of failures,” he said. One failure was the continued scourge of AIDS; 500,000 children under age fifteen died of AIDS in the year 2000, according to the Christian Science Monitor, and a UN report revealed that approximately 13 million children had lost either their mother or both parents to the pandemic. It was also reported that one out of every four of the world’s 1.4 billion children lived in abject poverty, with their families subsisting on less than one dollar a day.
The three-day U.N. meeting was established for the purpose of assessing the plight of the world’s children over the previous 12 years and setting goals and priorities for the future.