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UNICEF: World’s Lawmakers Must Protect Children

From Disease To Trafficking, World’s Lawmakers Must Protect Children – UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today challenged legislators from around the world to do more to protect the health and well-being of youngsters by providing immunization, basic health and nutrition when they are infants while protecting them from exploitation, abuse and trafficking as they grow older.

“Parliamentarians have a choice,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy told the annual gathering of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Manila, Philippines. “They can make decisions that ensure the protection of children, or they can make decisions that leave children vulnerable to being exploited and abused.”

“The first choice virtually guarantees strong national development; the second choice virtually guarantees the continuation of poverty,” she added, noting that millions of children are trafficked every year as part of a lucrative human trafficking industry that is beginning to rival the illegal drugs and arms trade, with an estimated revenue of up to $10 billion a year.

It would have been easy to become demoralized after speaking with children on every continent who had been “beaten and raped, bought and sold, wrenched from home by conflict and forced to toil as soldiers and sex slaves,” said Ms. Bellamy, who completes her 10-year tenure at UNICEF at the end of April. “But if my decade with UNICEF has taught me anything, it is that this massive suffering of children is completely within our power to curtail,” she told the several hundred legislators.

She said lawmakers are uniquely placed to have a positive effect on children’s lives by creating and enforcing legislation to protect children, by allocating adequate resources from national budgets, and by using the power of parliamentary inquiry to hold governments, industries, and civil society accountable.

She urged parliamentarians to implement anti-trafficking measures during humanitarian crises, when children are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

“Legislative bodies and their members must take their place among the foremost champions for children by asking tough questions and demanding answers,” she said. “By committing yourselves to protecting your youngest citizens, you can send the message that the well-being of children is not just the responsibility of people who work with children, but of all of society.”

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