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Heads of State To Convene World Summit for Children

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Washington--President Bush will join more than 70 other heads of state later this month at what is being billed as the first international summit of world leaders to focus on children's issues, including health and education.

At the World Summit for Children, which will be held at the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 29-30, the leaders are expected to adopt a statement that emphasizes their commitment to the needs of children, especially those in less-developed countries.

They are also expected to sign a document outlining a plan of action for achieving the goals contained in the initial declaration.

The goals of the summit will include addressing ways to reduce the child-mortality rate. According to unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, about 15 million children each year--roughly 40,000 a day--under the age of 5 in the developing world die of disease and malnutrition.

Other health-related topics to be 8discussed include immunizations, maternal health, and sanitation.

The heads of state will also pay close attention to education issues, according to summit organizers.

They said that the areas likely to be addressed by the leaders include illiteracy, the lack of educational opportunities for girls in many countries, and early-childhood education.

"The overall aim of the summit is to put children high on the agenda for the 1990's," Aklilu Habte, director of education for unicef, said at a press conference held here last week to spotlight the role of education in the summit.

Summit organizers said they hoped the leaders would use the occasion to promote the international education goals developed at the "World Conference on Education for All" held in Thailand earlier this year.

Those goals included having at least 80 percent of the primary-school-age population in each country complete primary school, and eliminating educational disparities between boys and girls. (See Education Week, Feb. 14, 1990.)

A spokesman for President Bush could not say last week who was going to be part of the U.S. delegation to the summit. But Etta Fielek, a spokesman for Secretary of Education Lauro F. Cavazos, said the White House had contacted Mr. Cavazos about joining the delegation.

As a prelude to the summit, candlelight vigils will be held on Sept. 23 in more than 70 countries to draw attention to the plight of children.

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