Billion Children In Poverty
By Maxine Frith
22 October 2003
targets to reduce child poverty are going to be missed because globalised
trade and cuts to aid budgets are creating an ever-greater chasm between
the richest and poorest countries.
More than one billion
young people in the developing world are now living in conditions of
severe deprivation, according to a report for the United Nations Children's
Fund (Unicef). Tens of millions of children in developing countries
still do not have access to basic human needs such as food, water and
sanitation, the study found.
The report is the
first attempt to scientifically measure world poverty, and paints a
grim picture of how little the lives of the world's poorest people have
improved in the last few years.
A UN declaration
in 2000 pledged that by 2015, it would halve the proportion of people
whose income was less than one dollar a day and achieve a similar reduction
in the number of people suffering from hunger. The declaration also
pledged to cut the death rate among the under-fives by two thirds and
ensure that all children could complete primary school.
Shailen Nandy, a
co-author of the report, said: "At this rate, the goals are unlikely
to be met, given declining international commitment to development aid.
The results of cutting public spending on basic social services have
been an increase in poverty and inequality, a fact which organisations
like the World Bank need to acknowledge."
that globalisation, and pressure on developing countries to liberalise
trade, were adding to poverty.
Judith Melby, spokeswoman
for the charity Christian Aid, said: "In many countries, poverty
is increasing rather than decreasing, particularly in relation to things
like malnutrition among the under-fives.
"We have to
look at how globalisation has affected these countries. There is a real
link between that and poverty levels. They are put under enormous pressure
to liberalise their markets, then they lose their indigenous trade to
subsidised markets in the EU and the US; and the poorest people, such
as subsistence farmers, are left with absolutely nothing."
The report was prepared
for Unicef by the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research
at the University of Bristol.
It is the first
time child poverty in the developing world has been scientifically measured.
The lives of more than 1.2 million children from 46 of the world's poorest
countries were analysed for the study.
The report defines
children who lack one basic human need, such as food, safe drinking
water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter and education are defined
as living in severe deprivation, while those without two basic needs
are said to be in absolute poverty.
The report found
that more than half of all children living in the developing world are
living in severe deprivation, while 674 million are in absolute poverty.
A third of all children in the survey lived in a dwelling with more
than five people to a room, or with only a mud floor.
A similar proportion
had no kind of toilet facility and one in five had no access to safe
drinking water. More than one in ten children aged seven to eighteen
had never been to school, and one in seven was severely malnourished.
Ms Melby said: "We
need to make sure that money is carefully targeted and gets to the people
who need it most, such as women and children. Health and education are
the most important factors, and are closely linked to globalisation.
"If these countries
lose income from their own markets, they cut social services and people
are forced to pay for health and education. This has a huge impact on
the future health and prospects for children."
Countries in sub-Saharan
Africa have the highest rates of deprivation, according to the report.
In some countries, 90 per cent of children in rural areas were assessed
as living in absolute poverty.
Professor Dave Gordon
from the University of Bristol and another of the report's authors,
said: "Many of the children surveyed who were living in absolute
poverty will have died or had their health profoundly damaged by the
time this report is published, as a direct consequence of their appalling
will have had their development so severely impaired that they will
be unable to escape from a lifetime of grinding poverty. The UN targets
were quite modest anyway and yet we are still not going to hit them.
managed to provide sanitation for people thousands of years ago, and
yet millions of people today still do not have access to a toilet."