Creating a protective environment for children: A challenge for BangladeshDhaka, October 13, 2008: Bangladesh will celebrate the Child Rights week under the theme “Creating a protective environment for child development” from 14 to 20 October 2008. The theme refers to the current challenges the country is facing with the growing threat of climate change, environmental degradation and social insecurity. This resonates with UNICEF’s global concern about the impact of climate change, rapid urbanization, and migration of population on the survival, growth and development of children.
In Bangladesh, an increasingly large number of families are moving to cities without finding the employment and shelter they were looking for. This translates into a growing group of slum dwellers who are deprived of basic services. Children living in slums are often engaged in child labour and miss out on education. They lack proper sanitation and health care. They are also more vulnerable to violence and abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation. According to the MICS Survey 2006, 13% children are involved in child labour in Bangladesh and only 52% of children of primary school age living in the slums are attending school.
Families living in Bangladesh are exposed to recurring natural disasters. With 40 percent of the population living in poverty, such catastrophes make the living conditions of Bangladeshi people very precarious. The increase of food prices has worsened this situation, hitting many families throughout the country, including lower middle class households. According to a recent assessment by FAO and WFP, the number of Absolute Poor has raised by 7.5 million people. When these shocks occur, children are always the most affected.
‘If we are serious about children’s rights, we should not leave one single child behind. It is vital to provide these poor families with safe water and sanitation, improved child nutrition and maternal care, quality education and protection for children at risk in order to reduce their vulnerability’, said the UNICEF Representative Carel de Rooy. ‘This can be achieved by prioritizing budgetary allocations for the realization of the economic, social and cultural rights of children, in particular those belonging to economically and geographically disadvantaged groups, including indigenous children.’
Bangladesh has made rapid progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) related to children, particularly in child survival, gender parity in primary education and school enrolment. For each of these MDGs, Bangladesh is likely the meet the 2015 targets. However these positive national trends mask a number of disparities and inequalities, in relation to wealth, geographical location and social discrimination. Progress is still limited in other areas such as maternal mortality, under-nutrition, pre-school attendance, primary school retention and child protection.
In line with the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommendation, Bangladesh has taken important steps to review and harmonize national laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF is advocating for the development of a comprehensive framework for children rights – a Children Code – that could embody all the rights of the child and eliminate inconsistencies among laws and policies. Such a framework coupled with an effective monitoring mechanism would be key for a sustainable protective environment for children.
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