UNICEF: Children’s lives improving, but poorest still vulnerable

The U.N. Children’s Fund called on all nations Monday to renew their pledge to improve the lives of children around the world, saying the odds are stacked against the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

UNICEF reported that overall conditions for children are improving but the world’s poorest children are still at a higher risk of starvation and other threats. File Photo by Hugh Kinsella Cunningham/

The report, titled “For Every Child, Every Right,” notes that the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely adopted and rapidly applied international treaty in history, with 196 parties and 140 signatories. Its goal is to allow children to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity.

The mortality rate for children under 5 years old, it found, has dropped by 60 percent worldwide and the number of malnourished cut nearly in half. However, UNICEF said the study also found lingering problems.

Many poor children, it said, still die from preventable diseases before they turn 5. Millions are still at risk of poverty, discrimination and marginalization, immunizations are dropping and more children are dying from measles, the report found.

“In addition to the persistent challenges of health, nutrition and education, children today have to contend with new threats like climate change, online abuse and cyberbullying,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement. “Only with innovation, new technologies, political will and increased resources will we help translate the vision of the Convention of the Rights of the Child into reality for all children everywhere.”

The agency said poor areas also struggle to keep up in education and children aren’t learning necessary skills. Extreme weather events are also a danger, as they have created food and water insecurity.

Non-governmental agency Educo said more needs to be done to promote the convention, and stressed there’s no excuse for a lack of awareness.

“It is an unacceptable situation,” Educo Advocacy Director Yukido Yamada said in a statement. “Article 42 of the Convention demands that states actively promote children’s rights to the whole of society. However, half of children do not know about this text or what it is for.

“This figure is a clear sign that governments have not taken children rights seriously since the convention was approved 30 years ago.”

Educo said in its “Small Voices Big Dream” survey 71 percent of children are aware that they have rights, but 39 percent think adults don’t know or respect them. The survey was based on 5,500 responses from children in 15 countries.

ByNicholas Sakelaris