By Jill Moss

This is a VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

The United Nations Children's Fund is calling on international leaders to invest in young children. UNICEF made the appeal in December in its yearly report about the condition of the world's children.

The report offers scientific research about the need for good medical care and healthy foods for children. For example, the report says the first thirty-six months of a child's life is important for the development of the brain. The brain needs to be developed through social and physical activity, and strengthened by healthy food. UNICEF says that for every one dollar spent on the early development of a baby's brain and body, seven dollars will be saved in the future.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy says facts about early child development are not widely understood. She says many poor countries are paying more for interest on their debts than on social programs for children. Other countries are dealing with military conflicts or AIDS problems.

For example, conflicts in Sierra Leone and Angola have led to the highest death rates of children under age five. Switzerland, Sweden, Singapore, Norway and Japan have the lowest death rates for children under age five. One-hundred-eighty-seven countries are included on the list.

The United Nations Children's Fund says that almost eleven-million children die each year from diseases that can be prevented. One-hundred-seventy-million children do not get enough food to grow normally. More than one-hundred-million young people never go to school. And, one out of every ten children around the world has a disability.

Mizz Bellamy says that investing in early childhood development is the only way to guarantee that young people reach their full abilities as adults. In addition, she says countries that invest in children can make gains in education, economic development and crime reduction.

The UNICEF report says eighty-thousand-million dollars is needed each year to give new born children a good start in life. The report says such investment by the international community will help prevent violence, disease and poor living conditions in developing countries.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.

Voice of America Special English