Print Edition - 2014-11-20  |  Oped

Children are resources

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- KARIN HULSHOF

Nov 19, 2014-Exactly 25 years ago, on November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly agreed that the rights of children needed to be protected. The resulting Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by a record 194 states; it is the world’s promise to children everywhere. The Convention has inspired and guided national legislation, policies, and programmes to respect, protect, and fulfil child rights. Yet, pervasive poverty and inequities prevent millions of children from living in dignity and reaching their full potential.  

 On this 25th anniversary, we ask ourselves, what else we can do to transform the lives of children in South Asia. The response is, giving children and their mothers access to health services, good nutrition, and proper toilets. We also need to provide quality schooling and create opportunities for their future. The good news is that we have the knowhow and innovative approaches to make those positive changes.

In South Asia, Unicef’s priorities for 2014-17 are ambitious and vitally important to the development of this region. We envisage that 10 million additional children, especially girls, will attend school at primary and lower secondary levels. The percentage of girls who are married before age 18 will be reduced. The neonatal mortality rate will be cut down from 32 to 25 per 1,000 live births. South Asia will have no new polio cases. In addition, the goal is that 120 million individuals no longer practice open defecation, and that 12 million children be saved from stunting and its consequences.

Improving children’s lives by achieving these results is urgently needed to transform the future of South Asia. Our region is at the epicentre of the global stunting crisis. Over 63 million children under five are stunted. Iif South Asia is to make significant strides in reducing child stunting, greater investments will be needed to improve results in three key areas: child feeding, women’s nutrition, and household sanitation. South Asia is also the region with the highest numbers of people who defecate in the open: more than 680 million people don’t use toilets.

Furthermore, in South Asia, more than 2 million children die before their fifth birthday and these deaths are preventable. It is one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth. And far too many children get married. Therefore, a large scale response is urgently needed to stop stunting, end open defecation, bring millions of children into classrooms, reduce neonatal mortality, and end child marriage.

In the future, no child in South Asia shall see his life or her opportunities undercut because of persistent deprivations. Borrowing the words of children, “We are not the sources of problems; we are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses; we are investments. We are not just young people; we are people and citizens of this world.”

 

- Hulshof is Regional Director of  UNICEF South Asia

Published: 20-11-2014 17:26

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