A summit for children

September 28, 1990

This weekend President Bush will join more than 70 world leaders at the United Nations for a summit on children -- in other words, a summit on the future. Nothing is a better indicator of the prospects for generations to come than the welfare of those people whose lives on Earth will extend farthest into that future. But unless the burst of attention to children's issues results in policy changes, the summit will be little better than a photo opportunity for politicians to surround themselves with winsome young faces.

The opportunities for positive change are abundant. James P Grant, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), never tires of pointing out how many improvements in children's lives could easily happen if governments could only summon the political will to get them done. That's why he is calling the 1990s the "decade of doing the doable."

In one of the saddest ironies for children and families in poo

countries, the American obsession with abortion politics has put a stop to U.S. assistance to international family planning programs. The result is higher mortality rates for mothers and children and, as detailed on the Other Voices page today, a tragic increase in abandonment of children in many countries.

Another example is immunizing young children against commo illnesses like measles or mumps: During the two days of the summit meeting, 16,000 children around the world will die from ++ vaccine-preventable diseases. Even here in Maryland, too many pre-school children suffer needlessly from these same diseases, which is why Mayor Schmoke orchestrated a city "Shots for Tots" campaign last weekend.

This week, as a prelude to the summit, the Progressive Polic Institute issued a report detailing the influence of government and business policies on American families. And guess what? Too often, families lose. The $2,000-per-child personal income tax exemption is a good example. Tripling it to $6,000 would barely restore its worth in real dollars to its value for families in 1948. Without strong families, how can this country expect children to grow into literate, productive, law-abiding citizens? It's folly to put the burden on schools.

A summit for children is long overdue -- and so is the task o simply doing the eminently doable.

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