UNICEF paper calls for investing in vulnerable children in order to accelerate poverty reduction in Bangladesh
Dhaka 21 October 2010 : Accelerating poverty reduction is possible if socio-economic inequalities and disparities are addressed. To achieve this, one of the best strategies in Bangladesh would be to invest more in the most vulnerable children. This call was made by UNICEF at a national seminar held today in Dhaka for the launch of two documents: UNICEF global report Progress for Children: Achieving MDGS with equity and Mitigating socio-economic inequalities to accelerate poverty reduction: Investing in vulnerable children.
The Chief Guest of the event was the Minister of Finance, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith while the State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chawdhury, was attending as Special Guest. The seminar was chaired by Prof. Abul Barkat, President of Bangladesh Economic Association. The keynote paper was presented by UNICEF Representative, Carel de Rooy. The seminar was jointly organized by Bangladesh Economic Association and UNICEF.
UNICEF global report shows that while great progress is being made in international efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, widening disparities have been accompanying this progress, including between developing and industrial nations, between richest and poorest quintiles within nations, between rural and urban populations and between boys and girls.
‘An equity-focused strategy is not only right from a moral perspective, but it is also effective in achieving MDGs’, said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF Representative. ‘By targeting the most vulnerable children today, we can break the inter-generational cycle of poverty and accelerate poverty reduction, which is at the core of the Government’s policy. According to our paper, such an approach in Bangladesh is affordable. It is not about spending much more money but spending what is available to greater effect’.
Despite progress in many areas of social and economic sectors, child poverty and socio-economic disparities in Bangladesh remain a grave concern. More than 30 million children live below the upper poverty line and one-quarter lives in extreme poverty. They are deprived of basic social needs. However these poor children have been directly allocated only about 9.8 per cent of the social safety net budget or 1.4 per cent of the national budget in 2010-11. The most vulnerable children – urban working children, children living on the streets and orphans- have provisionally been allocated 0.7 per cent of the social safety net budget.
"Socio-economic inequality is the key barrier to development, particularly, in reducing poverty’, said Prof. Barkat. ‘When it comes to children, the barrier increases manifolds as it prevents them to reach their full potential. Inequality also perpetuates poverty from one generation to the next. This is why it is so crucial for the Government to invest in the most vulnerable children as part of the poverty reduction strategy."
The government of Bangladesh, with UNICEF support, is currently implementing specific projects to reach the most vulnerable children, children living on the streets, engaged in child labour or orphaned. Taking into account the cost of such interventions, as well as the resource constraints of the country, the UNICEF paper shows that, in ten years, it would be possible to provide access to basic education to almost all the most vulnerable children in Bangladesh, estimated at a total of 4 million. The investment for such a programme would only require on average 2.4 per cent of the social safety net budget and 0.37 per cent of the national budget. At the same time, there would be scope for the creation of 46,000 jobs for implementing these social interventions.
Based on these findings, UNICEF suggests that investing in poor and vulnerable children should become a key priority component of Bangladesh’s development strategy.
Among the personalities present in this seminar were Prof. Ashraf Uddin Chowdhury, Chairman, Social Development Foundation, Prof. Sadeka Halim, Information Commissioner, and Dr. Fahmida Khatun, Additional Director and Head of Research, Centre for Policy Dialogue. Ms. Saida Muna Tasneem, Director General UN, Ministry of Foreign Affairs also attended the seminar.