2009 marks the 20th anniversary of Universal Children's Day. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Today, 193 states have ratified the CRC. In fact, only two countries in the world — Somalia and the United States — have not yet given the CRC legal force, although both have signed it.
20 November is celebrated as the international day for children. The United Nations General Assembly recommended in 1954 (resolution 836 (IX)) that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day, to be observed as a day of understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world's children. The date of 20 November marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
Despite this worldwide consensus on the importance of our children, 70% of the approximately 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six potentially preventable causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. These deaths occur mainly in the developing world. An Ethiopian child is 30 times more likely to die by his or her fifth birthday than a child in Western Europe. Among deaths of children, South-central Asia has the highest number of newborn deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking a huge toll on children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in Africa. This, along with only modest progress fighting malaria, means the threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.