Urban living does not mean healthy living for children, the latest UNICEF report on the state of the world’s children has found.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that more often, when people think of poverty, a child in a rural village comes to mind. But Lake said children living in slums and shanties are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world as they are often deprived of basic services.
“The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World” provides five key areas that require action to fulfill the needs and rights of children who reside in urban areas. That means half of the world’s children.
There should be a clear understanding of urban poverty. To do this, accurate, disaggregated information should be disseminated widely. Surveys tend to lump children in slums with those who are living a comfortable life in urban settings. This give the notion that urban dwellers are better off than their rural counterparts.
Barriers that exclude children from receiving basic services, protection and security need to be removed. This can be done by promoting knowledge of available services, setting up community partnerships and creative strategies, and ensuring all children are registered and documented, among others. The report notes that a third of all children in urban areas are unregistered at birth.
The needs of children must be top priority. The report urges governments to put children at the heart of urban planning, such as ensuring the urban poor have adequate housing. Many city governments pursue vested interests that lead to unplanned, informal settlements that do not meet people’s needs.
Communities and government authorities should also coordinate and form partnerships. Children and adolescents should be encouraged to participate in key projects in cities. Examples in the report shows this leads to safer and more equitable cities. It also allows communities to provide for children’s play and leisure, which are children’s rights and part of their development.
Actors at all levels — public and private — must work together to create urban environments conducive to children’s rights. Civil society can tap the power of their constituent organizations to further children’s interests, for example.
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