CRC@25 Op-Ed

Improved children rights are urgently needed in South Asia

On 20 November 1989, the world agreed that rights of children needed to be protected. The resulting Convention on the Rights of the Child is ratified by a record 194 States. It is the world’s promise to children everywhere. The year 2014 marks 25 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Convention has inspired and guided national legislation, policies and programmes to respect, protect and fulfil child rights in South Asia. Yet, pervasive poverty and inequities prevent millions of children in South Asia from living in dignity and reaching their full potential.

On this 25th anniversary 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.

In South Asia, UNICEF’s priorities for 2014-17 are ambitious and vitally important to the development of this region. We envisage that 10 million additional children, especially girls, will attend school at primary and lower secondary level. The percentage of girls who are married before age 18 will be reduced. The neonatal mortality rate will be reduced from 32 to 25 per 1,000 live births. South Asia will have no new polio cases. In addition, 120 million individuals will no longer practice open defecation, and 12 million children will be saved from stunting and its consequences.

Achieving these results and improving children lives is urgently needed to transform the future of South Asia.

Our region is at the epicenter of the global stunting crisis. Over 63 million children under-five are stunted. South Asia is also the region with the highest numbers of people who defecate in the open: more than 680 million people don’t use toilets.

Last week, UNICEF convened a regional conference called Stop Stunting to call attention to the effect that if South Asia is to make significant strides in reducing child stunting, greater investments will be needed to improve results in three key areas: child feeding, women’s nutrition and household sanitation.

In South Asia, more than 2 million children die before their fifth birthday and these deaths are preventable. It is one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth. Far too many children get married.

Therefore a large scale response is not only necessary, it is urgently needed to stop stunting, end open defecation, bring millions of children into the class rooms, reduce neonatal mortality and end child marriage.

On this special occasion, our appeal is a call to join forces so that no child – boy or girl – in South Asia sees his life or her opportunities undercut because of persistent deprivations.

Borrowing the words of children “we are not the sources of problems; we are the resources that are needed to solve them. We are not expenses; we are investments. We are not just young people; we are people and citizens of this world” (From “A World Fit for Us”. Message from the Children’s Forum. October 2002).

Karin Hulshof
Regional Director
UNICEF South Asia

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