More than half of the world’s children are being robbed of their childhoods as a result of conflict, poverty and gender based violence, a new report from charity Save the Children has found.
Around 1.2 billion children live under the bread line and almost 153 million children live in areas affected by what researchers identified as the three main threats affecting children’s wellbeing: poverty combined with violence and high levels of discrimination against girls.
“This report is in its second year, and this year we were able to look at factors which threaten childhood through specific lenses,” said spokesperson Bhanu Bhatnagar.
“This data is extensive and will really help paint a picture of where work needs to be done to protect children worldwide.”
The research, released ahead of International Children’s Day on 1 June, uses indicators of poor health, malnutrition, lack of education, child labour, marriage, early pregnancy and violence to rank 175 countries according to where childhood is most and least threatened.
The report, titled ‘The Many Faces of Exclusion’, found that the top three countries where childhood is protected are Singapore, Slovenia and Norway. Despite their wealth, the US (36th), Russia (37th) and China (40th) all trailed behind Western European countries in the new index.
The bottom 10 countries were all in Africa: Niger, Mali, the Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Despite the immediate threat to life and limb from violence in war zones, the report found malnutrition and disease – coupled with inadequate access to healthcare – killed 20 times as many children as violence related to conflict.
And when the fighting ends, it can have long-lasting effects.
In Mosul, the city which formed the capital of the Iraqi half of Isis’ caliphate until the militants were defeated last year, many children are struggling with trauma as well as crippling poverty in a town where rebuilding will take years.
Twelve-year-old Nour, whose name has been changed, was forced to care for his father who was dying of kidney failure during the gruelling US-backed Iraqi coalition offensive to retake the city.
He was forced to venture out into Mosul’s dangerous streets to sell crisps to feed his family and buy his father’s medication. He learnt to administer his father’s injections himself, but eventually he died in agony in the boy’s arms.
Nour now sees himself as the head of the household, responsible for his younger siblings.
The boy is unfortunately not the only Iraqi child forced to take on adult roles. The country placed 125th on the Save the Children index, in large part due to the fighting with Isis, which displaced 14 per cent of the population and has interrupted the schooling of almost a quarter of Iraqi children.
“Both living under Isis and during the coalition offensive, these children have experienced things no child should have to. They have extreme emotional as well as physical scars,” said Save the Children’s Mr Bhatnagar, who recently returned from a field trip to Mosul.
“We have to act now to save this generation of Iraqi children.”
The charity is calling on governments to ensure no child is robbed of their health, education or a future stunted by mental distress, early marriage or forced labour.
“Over time I have seen how our caseworkers build relationships with displaced and traumatised children and their families,” Mr Bhatnagar added.
“The pain and the grief can be overcome. This work is vital if these children are to get some of their childhoods back, enjoy school and play again and become mentally fit members of society.”
Source and picture: independent.co.uk