I have on my desk the 2006 UNICEF State of the World’s Children report. The title of the report is “Excluded and Invisible.” It gives several reasons for this invisibility, which shuts children out of school, healthcare and other services and makes them more likely to fall prey to abuse and exploitation.
For children, it seems, the world is not a fair place.
According to the report, among the root causes of exclusion of the world’s children are:
–Gender. For every 100 boys who are not in primary school, there are 117 girls who miss out on primary education, largely due to gender discrimination. Gender also plays a major role in limiting women’s access to basic healthcare, which increases the risk of both mothers and children dying from preventable causes.
–Ethnicity. Almost 900 million people belong to groups that experience disadvantage as a result of their identity.
–Disability. An estimated 150 million children live with disabilities globally, most of whom live with the reality of discrimination and exclusion. The vast majority of children with disabilities in the developing world have no access to rehabilitative healthcare services or support services, and many are denied an opportunity for formal education.
–Poverty. Children in the poorest countries face far higher risks of death, illness and malnutrition, and are far more likely to miss out on school, than children in the rest of the developing world. In the least developed countries: One in every six children dies before the age of 5. One in 10 dies before the age 1. One in every two girls of primary school age is not in primary school. One in every three children under the age of 5–42 million children–is moderately or severely underweight. One in every four infants is not immunized against measles, a disease that kills more than 500,000 children every year.
–Income Inequalities. In countries across the developing world, children in the poorest homes are at least twice as likely to die before the age of five as children in the richest homes.
–HIV/AIDS. This disease is taking an increasingly high toll on children. Millions of children living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are missing out on schooling, protection and even the most basic care and prevention services. Every minute, a child under the age of 15 dies because of AIDS. One in every eight new global HIV infections is a child under 15. Fifteen million children have already lost one or both parents to AIDS.
–Armed Conflict. Nine of the 12 countries where one in five children dies before their fifth birthday have suffered a major armed conflict in the past five years. The net primary school attendance ratio for girls and boys in these nine countries is well below the averages of the poorest countries.
–Weak Governance. Children suffer tremendously when countries are unwilling or unable to provide basic services to their citizens, whether as a result of conflict, corruption or a lack of accountable institutions.
It’s easy to point fingers at other countries when assessing the treatment of children, but tomorrow, I want to share some figures on the treatment of children in my state, Texas. To give you a hint how we rate, the report I’m looking at from some good friends in the ministry is titled, “Shameful.”