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A new book that examines the effect of poverty on children is being launched by the African Child Policy Forum, a pan-African child rights policy research and advocacy center. The book, which is being issued on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, presents findings and observations from some of the world's leading child poverty and development experts.
A billion children live in poverty around the world. Most are in developing countries.
The Executive Director of the African Child Policy Forum and Editor of the book, Assefa Bequele, tells VOA children's issues are not given the priority they deserve throughout the world, particularly in Africa.
"Almost all over the world, be it in the West or in the South, politicians pay lip service for their love of children," said Assefa Bequele. "It is almost universally true. But, in reality, they do not really follow it up with substantive action."
Bequele says children do not have a lobbying group, so they lack political clout. And, this is why children's issues do not get the attention they deserve.
He says the objective of the book is to draw attention to this problem, particularly as it exists in Africa, and to call for action.
He says too many children are underweight, malnourished and in poor health. And this has a negative impact upon society and its ability to develop and prosper.
"You will also end up having a nation of under-educated, illiterate workers, unhealthy workers who cannot possibly constitute a productive work force," said Bequele. "And, no less importantly, you can end up having an adult population that may be in fact itself be a risk to political stability."
Bequele says an important point highlighted in the book is that children's well-being is not necessarily improved if they live in countries that are rich in minerals and other resources.
He says there are a number of rich African countries, such as Equatorial Guinea and Angola that have a reasonably high per capita income, but who are not investing in children.
"On the other hand, you find poor countries, for example, Kenya, Malawi, Burkina Faso, Mali, which are poor, but are doing a lot for child well being," he said. "The critical factor is the political will, actually."
Bequele says governments that have the political will can do a lot to address the health, educational and other needs of children.
He says children's welfare would improve enormously if governments put them at the center of public policy, enacted laws that provide them with protection and designate enough money to fulfill their basic needs.