ABUJA ( Sundiata Post) – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said the world is unfair for the poorest and most disadvantaged children despite the many advances made since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989.
In a statement issued to mark the Universal Children’s Day, Doune Porter, chief of communication, UNICEF Nigeria, said despite Nigeria being the leading economy in Africa, the disparity between the wealthy and the poorest in Nigeria is particularly great.
“A study conducted by the National Population Commission, with support from UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that approximately six out of every 10 Nigerian children under the age of 18 years suffer some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence. The Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey found that one in two children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence; and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence.
“There is a culture of silence around violence against children,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, “For many reasons, most children never speak up about it, and they don’t know where to go for help. The Government of Nigeria, UNICEF, the CDC, USAID and other partners in the Year of Action to End Violence Against Children are aiming to break that silence. Violence against children is never, ever acceptable.”
In a report entitled ‘Universal Children’s Day: Why fair matters and End Violence Against Children’, Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director said: “In just over a generation, the world has cut child death rates by half, put over 90 per cent of children in primary school, and increased by 2.6 billion the number of people with access to safe water.
“Yet children make up almost half of the world’s poor, nearly 250 million children live in conflict-torn countries, and over 200,000 have risked their lives this year seeking refuge in Europe.”
The report, For every child, a fair chance: The promise of equity, presents a statistical picture of how the world’s most marginalised children have fared against basic human development indicators. It points out that:
- Children from the poorest households are nearly twice as likely as those from the richest households to die before age five, and five times more likely to be out of school.
- Girls from the poorest families are four times more likely as those from the richest families to be married before 18.
- More than 2.4 billion people still do not have adequate toilets – 40 per cent of them in South Asia; and more than 660 million still lack access to safe drinking water – nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Roughly half of the 159 million children suffering from stunting live in South Asia and one-third in Africa.
“Such vast inequities fuel a vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty and disadvantage,” Lake said. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. We know how to slow, stop, and reverse it into a virtuous cycle of intergenerational progress. It is up to us to decide to do so through more commitment and resources. We must make this moral, pragmatic, strategic…and fair…choice.”
For every child, a fair chance makes the case for closing persistent gaps in equity, arguing that investing in children, particularly the most vulnerable, is right in principle and right in practice – and that such investment brings multiple benefits not only to children but also to their families, communities and economies.
An impressive team of UNICEF Ambassadors are raising their voices or activating their social media networks to help spur action for the world’s most vulnerable children as part of UNICEF’s “Fight Unfair” campaign.
“It is shocking to think that one in nine children lives in a country affected by armed conflict, witnessing horrific violence and having their rights to survival, health and education destroyed,” said British actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom. “I travelled with UNICEF to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia to see the how war is driving children and their families from their homes. The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. Every country that can should be supporting the children and the families who have been affected.”