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Child Poverty, Hunger Widespread in World’s Richest Countries

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - People receive free blankets as Thanksgiving meals are served in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles, California, Nov. 23, 2016.

A new report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) finds child poverty and hunger are widespread in 41 of the world’s richest countries. The report says one in five children in rich countries lives in poverty, while one in eight often do not have enough to eat.

The report finds high income does not necessarily lead to a good outcome for children and often serves to widen the gap between rich and poor. UN Children’s Fund Chief of Social Policy and Economic Analysis, Jose Cuesta says all 41 countries surveyed, in one way or another, are failing to protect the well-being of their children.

“If I were to grade all countries, no one will get an A," he said. "There is good news, of course, in quite a number of targets and areas. For instance, childhood learning or reductions in neonatal mortality rates. But, there are also substantive gaps in some targets. For instance, poverty reduction of children, increasing inequality, increasing obesity and worsening mental health.”

The seven top ranked countries in UNICEF’s League Table of 41 countries includes all the Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, as well as Germany and Switzerland. The seven countries holding up the bottom are Chili, Mexico, the United States, Bulgaria, Romania, Israel and Turkey.

Cuesta tells VOA the United States, which ranks 37th does not perform well in areas such as poverty, hunger, good health and well-being, and quality education.

“Actually, it is a surprise and it is not a surprise at the same time because consistently the U.S. is doing poorly across these key indicators. So, it is not really one indicator driving the results here,” he said.

The report notes wealth and economic growth alone are not enough to ensure the well-being of children. UNICEF is urging rich countries to put children’s needs at the heart of their policy agenda.

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