September 9, 2008

UN Chief Calls for More Attention on Links Between Literacy and Health

UN chief calls for more attention on links between literacy and health

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon called on Monday for more attention to be paid on the links between literacy and health.

"Illiteracy has a direct impact on human health," Ban said in his message for International Literacy Day, which is observed on Monday.

"It prevents people from being able to read the instructions on a medicine bottle," Ban said. "It means that people are less likely to know facts about AIDS, malaria and other infectious diseases."

"And because two thirds of those who are illiterate are women and girls, who often bear the burden of caring for sick members of their families, it means that they will be less likely to know about prevention and support services, and how to use life-saving medicines and other treatments," he noted.

Literacy is indispensable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals targeting maternal health and combating HIV and malaria, and for addressing some of the world's most important public health challenges, the secretary-general said.

Ban called for well-defined policies and increased investment to help people increase literacy skills.

The theme of this year's observance of International Literacy Day is "Literacy and Health."

Some 774 million people, roughly one out of five adults in the world, can still neither read nor write and 75 million children remain excluded from the educational system, according to UN statistics.

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