Saying almost 11 million children die each year of preventable causes, leading health experts were seeking ways to extend resources to "the poorest and the youngest" at an international conference.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF, which organized the meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, said pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition were the main causes of death and most could be blamed on poverty.
The experts, politicians and health officials were to place a special focus on the health needs of newborn babies who die during the first weeks of their lives, according to a news release.
"Of the 11 million who die, 8 million are babies," said WHO director-general Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. "These deaths were preventable and treatable, not inevitable."
The agencies said the science and medicine was available but a commitment of more political will and resources was needed, as well as investment in helping communities and families to overcome health problems.
"The resources needed to reach every child and adolescent are well within the means of our wealthy world," UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy said. "In a world where most deaths happen before children reach any health facility, the focus must be on bringing services to people rather than people to services."
The "first global consultation on child and adolescent health and development" was called to come up with "a strategy to reach the poorest and the youngest" ahead of a U.N. special session on children in May.
Delegates, including World Bank representatives and health officials worldwide, also were addressing the needs of adolescents since almost 1.5 million die annually from substance abuse, suicide, injuries, violence, disease and other causes.
"We are failing our children and young people," Brundtland said. "Even when they do survive, many children are still unable to grow and develop to their full potential."
The agencies said most of the diseases could be treated at low costs and most of the 600,000 deaths from measles could be prevented with vaccination that would cost as little as 26 cents per dose.
Better access to home treatment, insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria, improved breast-feeding and other feeding practices were among the methods cited to reduce the number of children killed.
UNICEF also was launching an updated version of an informational book "Facts for Life," which includes new chapters dealing with AIDS and new information about safe motherhood and nutrition.
Conference site, http://www.who.int/consultation-child-adolescent/
© 2002 The Associated Press