NEW YORK, 20 November 2017 – Despite global progress, 1 in 12 children worldwide live in countries where their prospects today are worse than those of their parents, according to a UNICEF analysis conducted for World Children’s Day.
According to the analysis, 180 million children live in 37 countries where they are more likely to live in extreme poverty, be out of school, or be killed by violent death than children living in those countries were 20 years ago.
“While the last generation has seen vast, unprecedented gains in living standards for most of the world’s children, the fact that a forgotten minority of children have been excluded from this – through no fault of their own or those of their families – is a travesty” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy.
UNICEF is commemorating World Children’s Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with global children’s ‘take-overs’, high-profile events and other activations of children in over 130 countries to give children their own platform to help save children’s lives, fight for their rights and fulfil their potential.
“It is the hope of every parent, everywhere, to provide greater opportunities for their children than they themselves enjoyed when they were young. This World Children’s Day, we have to take stock of how many children are instead seeing opportunities narrow and their prospects diminish,” added Chandy.
Assessing children’s prospects in escaping extreme poverty, getting a basic education and avoiding violent deaths, the UNICEF analysis reveals that:
• The share of people living on less than $1.90 a day has increased in 14 countries, including Benin, Cameroon, Madagascar, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This increase is mostly due to unrest, conflicts or poor governance.
• Primary school enrolment has declined in 21 countries, including Syria and Tanzania, due to such factors as financial crises, rapid population growth and the impact of conflicts.
• Violent deaths among children below the age of 19 have increased in seven countries: Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen – all countries experiencing major conflicts.
• Four countries – Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen – witnessed a decline across more than one of the three areas measured, while South Sudan has experienced declines across all three.
“In a time of rapid technological change leading to huge gains in living standards, it is perverse that hundreds of millions are seeing living standards actually decline, creating a sense of injustice among them and failure among those entrusted with their care,” said Chandy. “No wonder they feel their voices are unheard and their futures uncertain.”
A separate UNICEF survey of children aged 9-18 in 14 countries also released today shows that children are deeply concerned about global issues affecting their peers and them personally, including violence, terrorism, conflict, climate change, unfair treatment of refugees and migrants, and poverty.
Key findings from the survey include:
• Half of children across all 14 countries report feeling disenfranchised when asked how they felt when decisions are made that affect children around the world.
o Children in South Africa and the United Kingdom feel the most disenfranchised with 73 per cent and 71 per cent respectively reporting feeling that their voices are not heard at all or their opinions do not make a change anyway.
o Children in India report feeling the most empowered with 52 per cent of children believing their voices are heard and can help their country and that their opinions can affect the future of their country.
• Children across all 14 countries identified terrorism, poor education and poverty as the biggest issues they wanted world leaders to take action on.
• Across all 14 countries, violence against children was the biggest concern with 67 per cent reporting worrying a lot. Children in Brazil, Nigeria, and Mexico are the most worried about violence affecting children, with 82 per cent, 77 per cent and 74 per cent respectively worrying a lot about this issue. Children in Japan are the least likely to worry, with less than a quarter of children surveyed (23 per cent) worrying a lot.
• Children across all 14 countries are equally concerned about terrorism and poor education with 65 per cent of all children surveyed worrying a lot about these issues. Children in Turkey and Egypt are the most likely to worry about terrorism affecting them personally, at 81 per cent and 75 per cent respectively. By contrast, children in the Netherlands are the least likely to be concerned that terrorism would affect them directly, at just 30 per cent. Children in Brazil and Nigeria are the most concerned about poor quality education or lack of access, with more than 8 in 10 children worrying about this affecting children across the world.
• Around 4 in 10 children across all 14 countries worry a lot about the unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world. Children in Mexico, Brazil and Turkey are the most likely to worry about unfair treatment of refugee and migrant children across the world, with nearly 3 in 5 Mexican children expressing fear, followed by more than half of children in Brazil and Turkey. Around 55 per cent of children in Mexico are worried this will personally affect them.
• Nearly half of children (45 per cent) across 14 countries do not trust their adults and world leaders to make good decisions for children. Brazil has the highest proportion of children (81 per cent) who do not trust leaders, followed by South Africa at 69 per cent. Children in India have the most confidence in their leaders, with only 30 per cent not trusting.
• Barack Obama, Cristiano Ronaldo, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift are the most popular names for children to invite to their birthday party, with the former President of the United States featuring in the top five in 9 of the 14 countries. Watching TV featured as the number one hobby of choice in 7 out of 14 of the countries.
World Children’s Day is a day ‘for children, by children’, when children from around the world will be taking over key roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to express their concerns about what global leaders should be focusing on, and to voice support for the millions of their peers who are facing a less hopeful future.
“World Children’s Day is about listening to us and giving us a say in our future. And our message is clear: We need to speak up for ourselves, and when we do, the world needs to listen,” said Jaden Michael, 14-year-old activist and UNICEF child advocate.