Press Release

New evidence show children pay a heavy price across South Asia

New York, 11 September 2014 – UNICEF has launched the latest trends and data on children across South Asia which show huge progress and also that strong inequalities still persist and children pay a heavy price.

“More than 2 million children in South Asia die before their fifth birthday and these deaths are preventable. 38 per cent of all the region’s children have chronic malnutrition. And South Asia is one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth, with the second highest number of maternal deaths worldwide. Far too many children get married, and far too many girls are never born. Together we can turn the tide,” said Karin Hulshof, Regional Director for UNICEF in South Asia.

In addition, more than 8 million children under one year of age are not immunized. 46 % of girls marry before 18, and 18% marry before the age of 15. South Asia is also home to the largest number of stunted children in the world. In a region where nearly 700 million people still defecate in the open, 100 million children under five are not registered at birth. Afghanistan and Pakistan are two of the world’s three remaining polio-endemic countries.

The key findings are part of a new publication titled “Improving Children’s Lives, Transforming the Future – 25 years of child rights in South Asia”. The publication also presents the latest innovations which can transform and improve the situation of children in South Asia.

This new data is published as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC has inspired domestic legislation to respect, protect and fulfill child rights in all eight countries of South Asia, as well as the creation of policy and national development plans for their implementation. All countries in South Asia have incorporated aspects of the CRC into domestic legislation and set up ministries and oversight institutions in charge of children’s issues. In some countries, very progressive legislation has been enacted, establishing children’s legally enforceable rights to health, education, protection and participation. Yet, pervasive poverty and disparities prevent millions of children in South Asia from living in dignity, reaching their potential and making choices about their own future.

“On the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we ask ourselves what else can we do to transform the lives of children in South Asia? The response is getting children and their mothers health services, good nutrition and proper toilets. We also need to provide quality schooling and create opportunities for their future. And the good news is that we have the knowhow and innovative approaches to make positive changes in the lives of children in South Asia” added Karin Hulshof.

This new publication analyzes the progress made over the last quarter of a century on nine themes which are directly affecting the lives of children. It is also providing ideas and recommendations to transform the future of children in South Asia.

UNICEF South Asia is also marking the 25th anniversary of the CRC by launching “Generation@25” a child rights campaign which is taking a closer look at girls’ education in Afghanistan, stop stunting in India, ending open defecation in Nepal, and birth registration in Bangladesh. The campaign’s link is www.generation25.org.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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