Thursday June 27, 2019

Report: Children Around the World are Living Better

Across the globe, children are healthier and safer than ever before

Report, Children, World
FILE - A woman feeds her child at a clinic in a rural village in Afar, Ethiopia, Jan. 26, 2016. VOA

At a time when bad news seems inescapable, the aid group Save the Children has some good news: Across the globe, children are healthier and safer than ever before.

According to a new report by the U.S.-based charity, the overall situation for children has improved in 173 of 176 countries since 2000. Among the highlights are 4.4 million fewer child deaths per year, 115 million more children in school and 11 million fewer married girls.

“We found that there stands some remarkable progress in helping children to grow up healthy, educated and safe,” said Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children. “And I think the headline from the report is that an estimated 280 million children worldwide are significantly better off today than they were in the year 2000.”

To quantify the status of children, the group created an “End of Childhood” index and ranked countries on a 1,000-point scale. The scores reflect “childhood enders,” including death, severe malnutrition, child marriage, labor and early motherhood.

Report, Children, World
FILE – Students walk within the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia, Feb. 24, 2017. VOA

In Africa, the group found reason for optimism. More than 70% of African countries saw their scores increase by 100 points or more. Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Niger made the greatest gains.

“In most of these cases, you can get strong political commitment from the very top,” Nikki Gillette, one of the report’s researchers, said.

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Each of the African countries highlighted had specific drivers improving the quality of life for children. In Sierra Leone, the end of a protracted civil war led to a 99% reduction in displaced people. In Rwanda, a return to peace and several government initiatives led to a 79% drop in child mortality and a 60% reduction in child marriage and “out of school” rates.

In Ethiopia, a commitment to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals has led to improved health of mothers and children. Miles said, 20 years ago in Ethiopia, Save the Children was primarily focused on saving the lives of young children. Now, the problems are less severe, and the group can focus on other indicators.

“The [Ethiopian] government has taken up a lot of that community health work, and the child mortality rate has dropped by 54%,” Miles said. “So the work that Save the Children is doing there now is more focused on making sure that kids get basic literacy and have all the skills they need in school, and also training youth.”

Some scores drop

But the news wasn’t good everywhere. Syria, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago’s scores dropped between 2000 and 2019. Syria has been in civil war for nine years, Venezuela has undergone a political crisis leading to widespread food shortages and, in Trinidad and Tobago, increased malnutrition has led to higher levels of stunting among children.

Report, Children, World
FILE – Iraqi Yazidi children rescued from the Islamic State (IS) group wait to board buses bound for Sinjar in Iraq’s Yazidi heartland, April 13, 2019. VOA

The report also noted a steep rise in the number of children living in conflict zones. Since 2000, the number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict has increased by 80%, totaling about 30.5 million more people.

“That’s where we see, really, the indicators not going in the right direction,” Miles said.

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In fact, Miles added, the five countries recording the worst mortality rates for children under five — the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Sierra Leone and Somalia — are all either at war or have recently come out of war.

“We released a report earlier this year that estimated that 120 million children were living in areas affected by conflict at the end of 2017,” Miles said. “And the impact on kids is more than just the impact from bombs and bullets.” (VOA)

Next Story

Hundreds of Children Sustained in U.S. Border Detention Facility after Entering the Country without Authorization

Lawyers who visited the remote station said that older children were caring for other children

Children, US, Detention Facility
This image from a video, taken June 20, 2019, shows the entrance of a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas. A legal team that interviewed about 60 children there says young migrants being held there are being mistreated by the U.S. government. VOA

Several hundred children, held in a U.S. border detention facility in Texas after entering the country without authorization, will be sheltered elsewhere, following a media report last week that described unsanitary living conditions and inadequate food and medical treatment at the facility.

The Associated Press reported Monday that authorities moved “more than 300 ” out of a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, following a June 20 story by the news agency.

Lawyers who visited the remote station said that older children were caring for other children, sanitation conditions were substandard, and children were sick, living in soiled clothes and being given rotten food, according to the AP.

VOA requested comment from the two government agencies involved in housing children who cross the border without authorization, or without a guardian — U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, within the Department of Health and Human Services. Neither office responded as of Monday afternoon.

Children, US, Detention Facility
FILE – Attorney General Jeff Sessions is shown during a news conference in San Diego near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, May 7, 2018. Pixabay

A June report by the Office of the Inspector General, the internal watchdog at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, found cleanliness and sanitation problems during an inspection of four detention facilities.

Asked about the allegations of poor standards for detained children, U.S. President Donald Trump did not address the AP report in a TV interview aired on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” show.Instead, he laid responsibility — erroneously — on his predecessor, President Barack Obama, for the creation of what became known under Trump as the “family separation” policy.

As researchers from the Bipartisan Policy Center explained in a 2018 report, previous administrations relied more heavily on family detention facilities or alternatives to detention, like the use of monitoring devices.

Parents and children were separated under Obama in limited circumstances, such as cases where child trafficking was suspected.

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It was under the Trump administration, however, that then-Attorney General Jeff Session announced a blanket zero tolerance policy to detain all migrants who crossed the border without authorization.

That policy, though short-lived, led to thousands of adults and children being held in separate facilities. The public backlash and lawsuits led the administration to rescind the policy.

In a separate interview Sunday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged that the conditions in the facilities as reported by AP were unacceptable, he shifted the blame to Democrats in Congress.

Meanwhile, authorities said Monday that three children and one adult found dead in South Texas near the border with Mexico probably died of dehydration and heat exposure after crossing the Rio Grande into this country, AP reported.

Children, US, Detention Facility
Several hundred children, held in a U.S. border detention facility in Texas after entering the country. Pixabay

An increase in the detention of families with young children and children traveling without guardians has left U.S.officials scrambling to meet the shelter demands on the border.

At one point in recent months, CBP solicited bids to purchase thousands of baby bottles and diapers for detainees at the border.

From Oct. 1, 2018 – the start of the fiscal year – through May 31, CBP has detained 332,981 families and 56,278 unaccompanied children at the border, according to agency data.

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The agency is under scrutiny over several deaths of children in its custody since late last year. (VOA)