Deliberate discrimination harms millions of children in the world

Deliberate discrimination harms millions of children in the world

The new report from Save the Children reveals millions of the world’s poorest children are being denied vital services because of who they are and where they live. The organisation will launch an international campaign entitled “Every Last Child”, the aim of which is to reach these forgotten children.  The organisation insists that the world’s leaders commit themselves to three goals: fair basic services, equal treatment of all children and responsible decision-making that takes children’s rights into consideration.

Deliberate discrimination or neglect is the largest threat to the well-being of the world’s poorest children – and it is only getting worse. This was found in a report from Save the Children, entitled “Every Last Child”, which is published today.

The report indicates that the decrease of utmost poverty has not led to sufficiently permanent changes in children’s well-being. This may be due to geography, their gender or ethnicity, a disability or because they are victims of conflict.

At its worst, this discrimination is deadly.  The death of 16,000 children every day could be prevented. Of them, a disproportionately large number are part of discriminated groups.

“Our report reveals how some of the world’s poorest children are being left behind because of who they are or where they live. In addition, many countries are deliberately failing to gather data on them”, says Hanna Markkula-Kivisilta, Secretary General of Save the Children Finland.

“It is not a coincidence that discrimination is preventing some of the most vulnerable children from accessing the most vital services.  These children are being systematically left out by design or neglect.”

Save the Children will launch a three-year “Every Last Child” campaign in order to ensure that every child has fair possibilities to survive and to receive healthcare, education and food regardless of who they are or where they live.

The campaign appeals to decision-makers at the local, regional and international levels so that obstacles preventing the access of the poorest children to the most important services could be removed.

“Public opinion, decision-makers’ attitudes and laws must change. In addition, discriminated groups must be allowed to participate in decision-making that affects their lives”, says Markkula-Kivisilta.

“If not, children in the weakest position in the world will not have access to the healthcare, food and education they need – and the world will not reach the UN development goals, which promise to ‘leave no child behind’ by 2030.”

The organisation is appealing to the world’s leaders so that they would commit themselves to three key goals: sustainable funding of fair basic services, such as healthcare and social security, so that services continue to be free of charge, fair treatment of all children and responsible decision-making that takes children’s rights into consideration.

The report reveals that an estimated 400 million children globally face discrimination because of their ethnicity and religion.

In India’s state of Bihar, for example, where scheduled castes make up 59 per cent of the poor, only six per cent of children are registered at birth, compared to 42 per cent of children in the rest of the country. This prevents them from accessing vital services because they lack proof of birth.

While significant progress has been made to narrow the gap between genders, the effects of discrimination are worst among adolescents and the world’s poorest girls. Gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy are contributing to higher maternal and infant mortality, while limiting a girl’s opportunities to learn. Child marriage is also more prevalent among the world’s poorest girls.

Disabled children are far too often discriminated and forgotten. They are three to four times more likely than their peers to experience physical and sexual violence or neglect.

Conflicts have also created a specific group of excluded children – refugees and internally displaced people. Children born into conflict are dying in greater numbers than those in peaceful countries.

But discrimination and exclusion are also affecting children in some of the wealthiest countries. Often these children belong to ethnic minorities, such as indigenous peoples.

“We must take steps to recognise that excluded children exist and to provide them with the services they are entitled to. Otherwise it will be impossible for all children to survive and thrive – even in the wealthiest countries,” says Markkula-Kivisilta.

The report “Every Last Child” is appended.

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