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States Must Act To Save Millions Of Children

States Must Act To Save Hundreds Of Millions Of Abused Children, Un Report Urges

Hundreds of millions of children suffer from severe exploitation, becoming virtually invisible to the world - millions of them victims of trafficking and domestic servitude - and governments must step up remedial measures with legislation and funding, according to a new United Nations report released today.

“Meeting the Millennium Development Goals depends on reaching vulnerable children throughout the developing world,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said, launching the agency’s report in London and referring to UN targets set at a 2000 summit which aim to address a host of socio-economic ills by 2015, including extreme hunger, poverty and lack of access to education and health care.

“There cannot be lasting progress if we continue to overlook the children most in need – the poorest and most vulnerable, the exploited and the abused,” she added.

The State of the World’s Children 2006: Excluded and Invisible is a sweeping assessment of the world’s most vulnerable children, whose rights to a safe and healthy childhood are exceptionally difficult to protect. These children are growing up beyond the reach of development campaigns and are often invisible in everything from public debate and legislation, to statistics and news stories.

Noting that millions of children disappear from view when trafficked or forced to work in domestic servitude while others, such as street children, live in plain sight but are excluded from fundamental services and protections, enduring abuse and denied school, healthcare and other vital services, the report probes four main causes and proposes four key remedies.

As the four principal culprits it cites:

  • Lack of formal identity - every year over half of all births in the developing world (excluding China) go unregistered, denying more than 50 million children a basic birthright: recognition as a citizen. Without a registered identity, children are not guaranteed an education, good healthcare, and other basic services.
  • Lack of parental care - millions of orphans, street children, and those in detention are growing up without the loving care and protection of parents or a family environment. Some 143 million children in the developing world – 1 in every 13 – have suffered the death of at least one parent.
  • Imposition of adult roles - children are forced into adult roles too early, missing crucial stages of childhood development. Hundreds of thousands are caught up in armed conflict as combatants, messengers, porters, cooks, and sex slaves for armed groups. Despite laws against early marriage, over 80 million girls in the developing world will be married before they turn 18 – many far younger. Some 171 million children work in hazardous conditions, including in factories, mines and agriculture.
  • Exploitation - shut away by their abusers, these children are among the most invisible. Some 8.4 million work in the worst forms of child labour, including prostitution and debt bondage. Nearly 2 million are used in the commercial sex trade, where they routinely face sexual and physical violence. A vast but unknown number are exploited as domestic servants in private homes.
Outlining concrete remedies that Governments should take, the report proposes:
  • Research, monitoring and reporting on the nature and extent of abuses against children are vital to reaching those who are excluded and invisible.
  • National laws must match international commitments to children, and legislation that fosters discrimination must be changed or abolished.
  • Child-focused budgets and the strengthening of institutions that serve children must complement
  • Reform is urgently needed in many communities to remove entry barriers for children who are excluded from essential services, for example, eliminating the requirement of a birth certificate to attend school.

The report warns that without focused attention, millions of children will remain trapped and forgotten in childhoods of neglect and abuse, with devastating consequences for their long-term well-being and the development of nations.

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