If you are reading this, you may assume that as a child you had the privilege of going to school. A privilege that 244 million children don’t have that Today.
On November 20, we celebrate World Children’s Day with the theme of equality and inclusion for every child. However, the reality is that now is not the time to celebrate as we see the first reversal in development indicators in decades. In 2021, nine out of ten countries saw a drop in their indicators. When deterioration occurs, it is always the children who are affected first, hardest and longest.
While the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the global economic crisis have pushed the accelerator to this decline, it would be naive to believe that these are the sole causes or that these trends could be reversed within a few years. turned. Climate change has led to an alarming increase in deaths, while failing governance, increasing conflict and increasing population displacement have set the stage for a grim future for today’s children.
The effects on children are immediate and when a domino falls, a rapid cascade ensues. Progress to end child labor has stalled, reversing the previous downward trend where 94 million children left the workforce between 2000 and 2016.
By the end of this year, an additional 8.9 million children are estimated to be forced to work, along with more than 160 million others.
School attendance increased until recently, but this trend has now also reversed with at least 10 million additional children missing school in 2020 due to the pandemic. In Afghanistan alone, an additional 1.2 million girls have been denied access to secondary education.
Nearly 28 percent of working 5-11 year-olds and 35 percent of 12-14 year-olds in the labor force are out of school. Children out of school are 3.4 times more likely to get married than their peers.
As many as 345 million people are now acutely hungry, and 50 million girls, boys and their families in 45 countries were on the brink of starvation in 2021, 1.5 times more than in 2019.
While we strive for sustainability, the current context means that in many countries we are simply trying to maintain the achievements of the past decade. Even this is not possible for countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. In this and many other countries, children are just trying to survive, and the odds are now stacked firmly against them.
All of these stats can be overwhelming, and yet there’s a name behind each stat.
Arthur, 11, Mushegh, 8, and Rima, 10, know more about conflict and displacement than any child should ever know. They were first displaced in October 2020 from their home in Nagorno-Karabakh and found refuge on the Armenian border with Azerbaijan. Their father, a teacher, lost his job and learned to keep sheep.
The children lost their friends, their safety, their home and their peace of mind. Then, in September of this year, a bombing destroyed several houses in their village. As a result, schools closed and thousands of children had to be evacuated, many re-traumatized by the fighting.
People in the village could no longer graze their sheep and their livelihoods were seriously affected. Children and their parents no longer feel safe and live in constant fear of another bombing.
With more children at risk of violence and famine than at any time in the past 10 years, it’s hard to know where to start.
But if we are able to break one link in this catastrophic chain of events, a child’s life can change dramatically for the better. We must speak out about the unacceptable burden that children bear in these global crises.
We should point out that spending on preventing violence against children is at its lowest since reporting began with only 64 cents per child is spent on supervision of development aid.
We must recommit to preserving and then improving the well-being of children everywhere so that we can prevent children like Arthur, Mushegh and Rima from falling into the cycle of child labour, loss of education, child marriage and hunger.
Today, World Children’s Day, don’t assume you have the opportunity to read this article or decide what to eat for lunch or make a myriad of other choices that hundreds of millions of children will never make. Rather, make it your responsibility to ensure that every child has a future where they not only try to survive, but thrive.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.