News / Africa

UNICEF: Hundreds of Millions of City Children Lack Vital Services

The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World.
The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World.
Lisa Schlein

The United Nations Children's Fund warns hundreds of millions of children who live in cities and towns are excluded from vital services, including health, education, clean water and sanitation.   In this year’s State of the World's Children report, UNICEF describes the grim reality of children growing up in poverty in city slums, which offer few of the benefits available to children of a wealthier class.  

Cities are great places for people who can afford to go to the doctor, get an education and take advantage of the many recreational activities available.  But, cities are not such great places for poor children forced to live in slums and shantytowns.

The U.N. Children’s Fund says these children are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world.  It says they live amid violence and exploitation.  They are deprived of the most basic services and denied a chance to thrive.  

UNICEF’s "State of the World’s Children Report" finds overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in these slums rapidly spread diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea, two of the biggest killers of children under five in the world.

The report notes one urban resident in three lives in a slum.  This rises to six in 10 in Africa.  It says many children in slums live close to vital services, such as schools and clinics.  The problem, it says, is they are excluded from these services because of poverty and discrimination.

UNICEF spokeswoman, Marixie Mercado, says these problems begin at birth.

“One-third of children in urban areas are not registered at birth," said Mercado. "That proportion rises almost half in Africa, makes them much more vulnerable to exploitation throughout their lives.  Slum dwellers, for example, living without secure land tenure always live with the permanent risk of being evicted.  This gives them absolutely no incentive to improve their households or their communities and it contributes to a huge sense of insecurity for children and their families.”  

And, UNICEF warns the situation is likely to get worse unless governments put children at the heart of urban planning and improve services for all.  Today, more than half of all people, including more than one billion children, live in urban settings.  By 2050, the United Nations predicts, 70 percent of the world population will live in cities.

Mercado says the increase in the number of slum-dwellers will only add to the deplorable conditions under which so many children are forced to live.

“In Kenya, for example, a study in 2009 showed that stunting rates among children in the slums of Nairobi were almost three times higher than in urban areas in general," she said. "In Bangladesh, mortality rates among children in slums was higher than both the rural and the urban rates, generally.”    

But, the report cites other studies where cities have implemented programs, which are benefiting the poor.  Mexico has an initiative which provides cash to the poorest families to send their children to school and pay for health care.  This operates in both rural and urban areas and is now being followed by other countries.  

UNICEF says steps such as the abolition of medical and school fees will improve children’s health and allow many more children to get an education.  The agency says vital services often are available to the poor, but they are unaware of this.  It says it is important that slum-dwellers be informed of their rights.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs