UNICEF has published its annual report on the state of the world’s children which provides updated statistics on the status of children’s rights across the world. The theme of this year’s report is the state of children living in an urban world. It notes that more than a billion children live in urban areas. In South Africa, 62% of the population is urbanized.
Many children in urban areas grow up in dire poverty and experience massive rights transgressions. The 2012 report explores the factors that drive urban poverty and deprivation, including migration, economic shocks, violence and acute disaster risks.
Common experiences for children living in urban areas include the following:
• A lack of access to education, medical and recreational facilities, water and sanitation, electricity and health care – even though they may live close to the services.
• Poverty drives them into dangerous and exploitative work rather than attending school.
• Their living conditions are often crowded and insecure.
One of the reasons for their continued state of deprivation is that they are often hidden by national averages that look relatively good from a development perspective, with the result that policies, programmes and funding do not target them.
UNICEF recommends the following:
• Improve the understanding of the scale and nature of urban poverty and exclusion.
• Identify and remove barriers to inclusion.
• Focus on children’s needs in urban planning.
• Promote partnerships between the urban poor and government at all levels.
• Work together to achieve sustainable improvements in children’s rights.