Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Report Says Millions of Children Victims of Abuse, Exploitation

The United Nations children's agency, UNICEF, says hundreds of millions of children around the world are victims of abuse, exploitation and discrimination. VOA's Lisa Ferdinando reports on UNICEF's annual report on the state of the world's children.

In October, boys were rescued from a factory that was operating illegally in New Delhi, India. Some said they worked in dismal conditions for 12 hours a day for about $2 a week.

UNICEF says there are hundreds of millions of children around the world who are are being exploited and abused. Some are child soldiers; others are trafficked or forced into prostitution.

UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of children, many who were kidnapped, are caught up in wars as fighters, messengers, cooks or sex slaves.

In the report, titled Excluded and Invisible, UNICEF says exploited children or those who have not been registered at birth are on the margins of society, and have become virtually invisible, facing discrimination or being denied schooling or other basic services.

Martha is a 15-year-old in Sierra Leone. "I'm an orphan because my father died during the war. I was 8. My mother died when I was a baby. I cannot go to secondary school at the moment because there is no money."

UNICEF director Ann Veneman says an important step in making children, such as Martha, more visible is awareness.

"People don't recognize the kinds of abuses children are subjected to and so we believe this report is one of the kinds of things that can be done to bring to light what happens to children and to create opportunities for advocacy with governments," she said.

The report says some 171 million children are working in dangerous conditions with hazardous machinery, and more than eight million children work in the worst forms of child labor, including prostitution.

Ms. Veneman also called for stronger enforcement of laws and increased regional cooperation to prevent abuses. "There's a strong need to work with law enforcement itself to ensure that the crimes that are being committed against children are caught and they're prosecuted."

UNICEF is also calling for updated laws to match international commitments to protect the world's children.