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UNICEF says 4.3m urban children likely to die young


United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says 4.3 million poor urban children are more likely to die before age five than their peers in rural areas.

It cited urban inequality, exclusion and challenges to well-being, which could together result in an ‘urban paradox’ where many urban residents, including children, miss out and suffer more severe deprivations than their rural peers.

In a new report released yesterday, UNICEF urged nations to make children the focus of urban planning by including them in social services in informal settlements and prevent exposure to environmental hazards.Similarly, the fund finds about 13.4 million poor children living in cities who are less likely to complete primary school than their rural counterparts.

Entitled ‘Advantage or Paradox: The Challenge for Children and Young People Growing Up Urban’, the report reveals that not all children in cities benefit from the “urban advantage” nor the notion that higher incomes, better infrastructure and proximity to services grant urban dwellers better lives.

UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy, Laurence Chandy, said: “For rural parents, at face-value, the reasons to migrate to cities seem obvious: better access to jobs, healthcare and education opportunities for their children. But not all urban children are benefitting equally; we find evidence of millions of children in urban areas who fare worse than their rural peers.

“Children should be a focus of urban planning; yet in many cities, they are forgotten, with millions cut off from social services in urban slums and informal settlements, and exposed to environmental or health hazards due to overcrowding.”

Up to one billion people are estimated to live in slums, hundreds of millions of them children, while Africa and Asia are urbanising rapidly. It is expected that by 2030, seven of the 10 largest cities will be in Asia, and Africa’s urban population is the fastest growing with an annual rate of 3.7 per cent.

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Laurence ChandyUNICEF
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