UNITED NATIONS, DEC. 19 -- The U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund today challenged world leaders to match promises with deeds, saying it will cost $20 billion a year to reduce sharply ignorance, starvation and mortality of children by the end of the century.

In a report released today, UNICEF says the 1980s were a "lost decade" for millions of children in the world's richest and poorest nations.

However, it said that falling rates of infant mortality in much of the developing world held out hope for the next decade.

The report calls on nations to reexamine national spending priorities and public policies by "no later than the end of 1991." It comes three months after President Bush and 70 other world leaders met at the United Nations, the largest such gathering in history, to pledge a redoubled effort to save the children.

The Sept. 19 summit meeting occurred against the backdrop of a "quiet catastrophe" in which 40,000 children are dying daily from sickness and malnutrition, said the report, entitled "State of the World's Children."

"The declarations of political leaders are not enough. The goals for the year 2000 must become the goals of society as a whole," James P. Grant, UNICEF's executive director, said in issuing the report.

The summit set 20 goals for 2000, including reduction by one-third of child deaths, cutting by half the number of children suffering malnutrition and introduction of basic schooling for at least 80 percent of the developing world's children.

The percentage of children living below official poverty levels has risen in most of the West, including Canada, Germany, Ireland, Britain and the United States, the report says.

It adds that an estimated 150 million children worldwide do not receive proper health care and about 100 million of them, aged 6 to 11, do not attend school.