“Poverty hits children hardest. While a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human, it is most threatening to children’s rights: survival, health and nutrition, education, participation, and protection from harm and exploitation. It creates an environment that is damaging to children’s development in every way – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
More than 1 billion children are severely deprived of at least one of the essential goods and services they require to survive, grow and develop. Some regions of the world have more dire situations than others, but even within one country there can be broad disparities – between city and rural children, for example, or between boys and girls. An influx or tourism in one area may improve a country’s poverty statistics overall, while the majority remains poor and disenfranchised.
Each deprivation heightens the effect of the others. So when two or more coincide, the effects on children can be catastrophic. For example, women who must walk long distances to fetch household water may not be able to fully attend to their children, which may affect their health and development. And children who themselves must walk long distances to fetch water have less time to attend school – a problem that particularly affects girls. Children who are not immunized or who are malnourished are much more susceptible to the diseases that are spread through poor sanitation. Poverty exacerbates the effects of HIV/AIDS and armed conflict. It entrenches social, economic and gender disparities and undermines protective family environments.
Poverty contributes to malnutrition, which in turn is a contributing factor in over half of the under-five deaths in developing countries. Some 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. Of these only eight per cent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 per cent are suffering long-term malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency.
The best start in life is critical in a child’s first few years, not only to survival but to her or his physical, intellectual and emotional development. So these deprivations greatly hamper children’s ability to achieve their full potential, contributing to a society’s cycle of endless poverty and hunger.
Fulfilling children’s rights breaks that cycle. Providing them with basic education, health care, nutrition and protection produces results of many times greater magnitude than these cost-effective interventions. Their chances of survival and of a productive future are greatly increased – as are the chances of a truly fair and peaceful global society.”