No Country Is Adequately Protecting Its Children’s Future: Report by Global Health Consortium
No single country is protecting its children’s health, their environment, or their future, a report has found.
Currently, children face threat from ecological degradation, climate change, and “exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at them,” the report states.
Titled “A Future for the World’s Children,” the report is compiled by a commission of more than 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world, convened by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Lancet.
“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and co-chair of the commission, said in a statement. “It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty.”
The report is based on findings from 180 countries after comparing their performance on “child flourishing,” which is the best chance at survival and well-being for children. This was done by taking into account their health, education, and nutrition, each country’s sustainability (a measure of overall progress towards environmental sustainability), level of greenhouse gas emissions, equity, and income gaps.
While India ranked 131 out of 180 in terms of flourishing, it ranked 77 on the sustainability index. However, the report mentioned, India has improved on some aspects regarding health and sanitation, but it needs to make an effort to increase spending on health. But along with Pakistan and Bangladesh, India is also among the 50 countries at the bottom of the list, due to its inability to promote child health in the early years.
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Per estimates, the annual birth rate in India is approximately 2.6 crore with an infant mortality rate of 33 per 1,000 live births. This translates to nearly 8-8.5 lakh infants dying every year, or 2,350 infant deaths daily.
The reasons for the above were poverty, no access to improved sanitation or skilled birth attendants, according to India Index developer Lu Gram, from the Institute for Global Health, University College London.
According to the current report, children in Norway, South Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being. On the contrary, those in the Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sierra Leone have the worst chances of survival.
However, the report noted, excessive carbon emissions — a threat for the future of all children — also came from wealthier countries such as Norway and the Netherlands. Per the current projections, if global warming exceeds 4 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, the report said it would lead to devastating health effects on children caused due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, and an increase in diseases such as malaria and dengue and malnutrition.
The report also estimated that children in some countries are exposed to as many as 30,000 advertisements on television in a year. This exposure is responsible for an increase in the purchase of unhealthy foods and beverages posing a higher risk of obesity in children.
The report highlighted that children and adolescents should be placed at the center of each country’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. It also advised world leaders to tighten regulations around harmful commercial marketing, as measures to protect children’s future and their health.