Worse than ever

To mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Unicef groups in more than 50 German cities have called for increased efforts on behalf of disadvantaged children. Numerous activities are planned under the motto "Put your hand on it – make children's rights a reality". The plight of children worldwide has been exacerbated by the financial crisis.

The slump in the global economy is leading to an increase in poverty, hunger and disease among children in developing and emerging countries, Unicef Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson said Thursday at the launch of her organization's annual report in Berlin.To date, one in two of the approximately 2.2 billion children on earth lacks basic things such as sufficient food, clean water, medical care, schooling and a roof over their heads, according to the report "On the situation of children's rights in the world".According to the report, the number of malnourished children continues to rise due to high food prices and poor harvests. Some 200 million children under the age of five have their development stunted by chronic lack of food, it said.In addition, the poorest children are the most affected by natural disasters as a result of climate change, said Johnson, a former Norwegian development minister. Their risk of disease is increasing due to strong UV radiation and infections such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. The growing social contrasts worldwide lead to disadvantaged children "being left behind more and more". According to UNICEF, only 65 percent of the poorest children in developing countries attend school.

Child mortality is declining Johnson reported initial successes in the fight against child mortality. In 1990, 13 million children died before their fifth birthday; today, the figure is just under nine million. In contrast, the report cites the exploitation of children as cheap labor and the trafficking of children as a challenge. Worldwide, around 150 million five- to 14-year-olds would currently be working. According to estimates by the International Labor Organization, in 2000 alone some 1.2 million children were sold like commodities by human traffickers and some 1.8 million children and young people were exploited for prostitution and pornography.For Germany, UNICEF ambassador and TV presenter Sabine Christiansen noted a growing gap between poor and rich families and children's educational opportunities. Nearly one in six children is already growing up in poverty and the number of school leavers without qualifications is rising. In view of the demographic development, Christiansen warned against a policy at the expense of the youngest in society. It called again for the inclusion of children's rights in the Basic Law.

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