B. Children and youth

Basis for action

6.6. Owing to declining mortality levels and the persistence of high fertility levels, a large number of developing countries continue to have very large proportions of children and young people in their populations. For the less developed regions as a whole, 36 per cent of the population is under age 15, and even with projected fertility declines, that proportion will still be about 30 per cent by the year 2015. In Africa, the proportion of the population under age 15 is 45 per cent, a figure that is projected to decline only slightly, to 40 per cent, in the year 2015. Poverty has a devastating impact on children's health and welfare. Children in poverty are at high risk for malnutrition and disease and for falling prey to labour exploitation, trafficking, neglect, sexual abuse and drug addiction. The ongoing and future demands created by large young populations, particularly in terms of health, education and employment, represent major challenges and responsibilities for families, local communities, countries and the international community. First and foremost among these responsibilities is to ensure that every child is a wanted child. The second responsibility is to recognize that children are the most important resource for the future and that greater investments in them by parents and societies are essential to the achievement of sustained economic growth and development.