The report on the status of children and women, produced by the Arab League and the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), said many Arab countries have made progress on child rights and protection, but that more still needs to be done.

 

"More than 10 million children in the Arab world are out of school, most of them in Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Sudan," said the report, although it gave no figures for the total number of school-age children in the region.

 

The report, released on Monday in Cairo, said although many countries had established a basis for a child's right to education, they still fell short of the UN's millennium development goals for primary education, especially for girls.

 

"More than half of the women in the Arab world cannot read or write," said the report, arguing that this was preventing them from obtaining vital information on such issues as pre- and post-natal health, leading to high infant and child mortality rates.

 

Mortality rates

 

Mortality rates among under-fives in the region stand at about 60 for every 1000 births compared to just six in industrialised countries.

 

Many of those deaths occurred in the first year, primarily due to pre-natal complications exacerbated by ignorance.

 

"There is a dire need to invest in hospitals and clinics in order to provide care in cases of emergency delivery and to address the causes of pre- and post-natal complications," the report said.

 

"There is a dire need to invest in hospitals and clinics in order to provide care in cases of emergency delivery and to address the causes of pre- and post-natal complications"

Arab League/Unicef report

On education, the report said many of the Arab League's 22 member states enrolled only a small percentage of school-age children between 1997 and 2000 at primary level, with Tunisia being an exception with a record 99% intake.

 

The figures were even poorer for secondary school enrolment, with barely half of eligible children signed up in the 2000-2001 academic year in certain countries, the report said.

 

Only the Gulf island state of Bahrain managed to get 92% of eligible students enrolled in secondary school for that year.

 

The report noted that not enough emphasis was being placed on pre-school education, which it said was vital for academic formation.

 

It said pre-school education did not appear to be a priority even in states with better resources such as Saudi Arabia and Oman which along with Djibouti had intakes of only 6%.

 

Figures in other countries hovered at around 16%.