UNICEF works in 190 countries with the primary goal of saving children’s lives and defending their rights. Unfortunately, due to numerous humanitarian crises, millions of children worldwide live in complicated conditions.
From 1990 to 2016, the mortality of children under five decreased by more than half, according to a report by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. Despite progress, there is still much work to be done to ensure the well-being of children in conflict zones.
In 2017 alone, an estimated 6.3 million children and young adolescents died, mostly from preventable causes, according to the "Levels and trends in child mortality report 2018" from UNICEF.
The vast majority of these deaths happen in the first five years of life and most could have been avoided by simple solutions such as access to medicines and clean water.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to defeat the Houthis in Yemen. The coalition includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. Countless airstrikes devastated Yemenis children who received the brunt of this coalition’s force. The conflict has been described by experts as the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth.
“Children have suffered terribly during more than three years of conflict — at least 6,000 have been killed or seriously injured by the fighting, while over 11 million need humanitarian assistance to survive,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Conflicts such as Yemen not only kill children through violence, but also slowly through starvation. The most recent evidence signals that the number of people affected by global hunger is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 — one in every nine people — according to the UNICEF report "The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2018".
The report concluded that children have been increasingly exposed to multiple types of climate-related disasters and extremes over the last three decades.
UNICEF recommends strengthening local and global food systems to help more children and families access nutritious, as well as affordable and sustainable diets. The report also calls for better data about children, nutrition, hunger and food insecurity, so no child is left behind.
The availability of clean water is also a major factor in health risks among children globally. Every 2 minutes a child dies from a water-related disease and 160 million children are suffering from stunting and chronic malnutrition linked to water and sanitation, according to water.org.
As many as 844 million people lack access to safe water and 2.3 billion people don’t have a toilet. A lack of access to safe water or sanitation contributes to the spread of infections and water-borne diseases, which kill nearly 1 million people each year.
From Flint, Michigan to Sub-Saharan Africa, millions of children worldwide lack the basic human necessity of clean drinking water.
Access to education continues to be a constant struggle for many African nations.
In Chad, the number of displaced children, refugee children, and children living without access to education is staggering. Regional violence has closed more than 1,000 schools and educational opportunities for the 3.5 million children who are at risk — a number equal to the total population of Uruguay.
Humanitarian crises involving children are not only seen in Third World countries. There are an estimated 128,000 homeless children across the UK, according to the UK charity Shelter.
Homelessness is an epidemic seen throughout Europe. In a 2018 report, “The third overview of housing exclusion in Europe", the European Federation of National Organisations said homelessness is on the rise in every European Union country, except for Finland.
In Ireland, 3,333 children were homeless in November 2017 and there was a 60% increase in the number of children in emergency accommodation between 2011 and 2017 in Sweden, the report said.
The organisation called on leaders to address the issue by following recommendations, including investing funds into tackling homelessness, monitoring the issue at an EU level, and pledging to eradicate it by 2030.
More than 14,000 immigrant children are in US custody — an all-time high according to reporting by the Washington Post.
Ahead of World Children’s Day, Amnesty International called for all children currently being held at the South Texas Family Residential Center — the largest immigrant detention centre in the United States — to be freed with their families, and for the USA to end its plan of expanding family detention centres. The centre in Dilley holds hundreds of families, with its capacity now at 2,400 beds.
“World Children’s Day should be a day for every child to claim their rights,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Margaret Huang. “All children deserve to be safe and protected, to live with their parents and their families, and to have their voices heard.
"Instead, this World Children’s Day, children are locked up behind bars in the United States with their families, indefinitely, in fear of what will happen to them next.”
Huang said the United States has failed to protect children’s rights, refusing to do what is best for children while it continues to pursue cruel policies of hate and demonisation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Bede Sheppard, Deputy Director of Children's Rights for the Human Rights Watch (HRW) told Euronews there is both good news and bad news in 2018 for children worldwide.
On the good side, the number of children exploited in child labour has dropped more than a third since the year 2000, from an estimated 245 million to around 152 million today. Sheppard said the HRW is encouraged by the number of countries coming together to ban child marriage as well as the increased global accountability for warring factions that use child soldier.
"Globally there are a lot of positive trends for children, but that shouldn’t blind us to the horrific circumstances in which too many children still live in a number of situations around the world," Sheppard told Euronews. "For example, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children who fled mass atrocities by government security forces in Myanmar in 2017, now face an uncertain future in camps in Bangladesh," Sheppard continued, "in Yemen, children are starving and dying of preventable diseases, in Syria, children are still being recruited to fight and in Europe, thousands of asylum-seeking children are being denied their right to an education and blocked from access health care on the Greek Islands."