Despite the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives of the world’s children, there are “areas of progress for children we can celebrate,” said rights group Human Rights Watch in an optimistic statement Friday.
According to HRW, the number of countries banning the corporal punishment of children grew to 63 this year, with the addition of South Korea and Colombia. HRW said there was only one country with the ban 40 years ago.
The group pointed to other positive developments. A new malaria vaccine is expected to save the lives of tens of thousands of children every year in sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has declared China malaria free. The Asian country, HRW said, was “once home to 30 million malaria cases a year.”
The world’s infant mortality rate continued its downward trend this year, “dropping 2 percent since 2020 and by nearly half since 2000,” HRW said.
In Tanzania, the ban on teenage mothers attending state schools has been lifted. Tanzania had received criticism from several countries and human rights groups because of the discriminatory ban.
Meanwhile, laws prohibiting child marriages were enacted this year in the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. states of New York and Rhode Island.
HRW also reported that six more countries — Algeria, Maldives, Mexico, Namibia, Timor-Leste, and Togo — endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, which protects schools and universities from military use. Military use of schools dropped by more than 50 percent in countries that were early endorsers of the declaration, HRW reported.
Also, in Africa this year. HRW said “a coalition of armed groups in Mali signed a United Nations action plan pledging to end their use of child soldiers and other violations against children in armed conflict.”
Human Rights Watch also said more than 45,000 children across 84 countries were released from detention this year.
The United Nations Children’s Fund noted earlier this year that children in detention “lack adequate access to nutrition, health care and hygiene services, and they are vulnerable to neglect, physical and psychological abuse, and gender-based violence. Many are denied access to lawyers and family care, and unable to challenge the legality of their detention.”