GENEVA The United Nations telecoms agency ITU called on all countries on Monday to adopt a single telephone number -- 116.111 -- for children to call when they urgently need help or support.
The call was made by the Geneva-based ITU, the International Telecommunications Union, and Child Helpline International (CHI), a non-governmental grouping that represents bodies offering services in different parts of the world.
"Child helplines have become a lifeline for vulnerable children in many countries ... Having a single number that will work everywhere will benefit children in need around the world," said ITU senior director Malcolm Johnson.
CHI says the latest figures available for 2005 and 2006 show that children and young people make more than 10.5 million calls every year to helplines seeking support, counseling and intervention in emergencies.
The ITU said that a free-of-charge, harmonized and easily memorized helpline number, available from any phone in any part of the world, would ensure that more children got the help they needed.
It called on all governments to consider allocating the number 116.111 to child welfare organizations or, where no such services exist, to set it aside for use when they are set up.
Countries that already have helplines using various numbers should consider also adopting the universal one, the ITU said.
The number is already in use in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Portugal and Sweden, it said.
(Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Tim Pearce)