Each year Universal Children Day is celebrated throughout the world on the first Monday of October. A world-wide “Children Day” was originally proposed in 1952 by the International Union for Child Welfare (IUCW) and was celebrated for the first time internationally in October, 1953; 40 countries participated. When the United Nations General Assembly passed a formal Resolution establishing ‘Universal Children Day’ in 1954 it assigned to UNICEF the responsibility for promoting this annual “day of world-wide fraternity and understanding among children”. The number of countries and territories in which the Day is observed has risen from 40 in 1953 to more than 100.
The universality of children is the permanent underlying theme. In addition, each year a special theme is chosen to stress one important aspect of children’s lives. This year the special theme is “THE RURAL CHILD”. The conditions confronting the rural child merit our deepest concern. No fewer than 810 million infants and children under the age of fifteen are growing up in rural areas in the developing countries three and a half times as many children as live in urban areas. Trips to moon have ‘been launched on the one hand yet on the other in many parts of the world, reaching a village is difficult even today. Huge parts of our planet are still under-developed. Most of the world’s children live in rural isolation, far from schools, health centres or social services. Children are an invalu-able wealth being tragically wasted in many parts of the world.
In many a developing country water supplies for drinking, cooking, agriculture and sanitation are dangerously inadequate and unreliable. Contaminated water is a major cause of infectious diseases which attacks millions of rural children, resulting in a very high death rate among those children who manage to survive their first year of life.
The United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Union of Child Welfare urge that world attention be directed on Universal Children Day to the extreme disadvantages and obstacles which so many of these rural children face. Good education is the essential key to a happy and useful future. All children are mem-bers of one human family and have the same needs and rights. They need food, shelter, health care, education and hope. We should do whatever we can to help children. When we help the world’s children we are investing in the world’s future. Let us resolve to improve schools and services for all children. If the condi-tions of our rural communities are to be improved, and if our nation as a whole is w become prosperous, rural children need help and for this we should support all efforts to improve both th2 quality and quantity of rural education and health care.
Although elementary school enrollments have increased by about 50% since 1960, yet millions of children—particularly in rural areas still have no opportunity to go to school. School enrolment rate is usually much lower in rural areas than in urban areas, and drop out rate is higher. The drop-out rate after only two or three years of schooling is higher than 50% in most of the developing nations; in some rural areas it is 90%.
The ‘green revolution’ has increased good supplies in many countries but mal-nutrition and under-nutrition still exist among rural children to a tragic extent. UNICEF is helping the governments of developing nations to train more home economists, leaders of women’s clubs and youth groups. and nutritionists to work at the village level, thus helping to increase food supplies and agricultural skills and improve child nutrition. These efforts to help the rural child grow up strong and healthy, and to help rural areas produce more nutritious food deserve our strong support.
The UNICEF is helping governments of the developing countries to undertake rural community development as part of the over all national development. In Pakistan under the dynamic leadership of our Prime Minister, Mr. Zulfiqar All Bhutto, the peoples government have already embarked on the mass Rural Works Programme. But to make the programme a real success volunteers and trained staff are urgently needed. On Universal Children Day we urge everyone to support the Rural Works Programme either by volunteering to help in the work or with financial contributions.