“Children living in poverty are deprived of nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health-care services, shelter, education, participation and protection, and that while a severe lack of goods and services hurts every human being, it is most threatening and harmful to children, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of the society,” according to the General Assembly in its annual resolution on the rights of the child.
The UN General Assembly has recognised the special nature of poverty for children, stating clearly that child poverty is about more than just a lack of money, and can only be understood as the denial of a range of rights laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
According to this new definition, measuring child poverty can no longer be lumped together with general poverty assessments which often focus solely on income levels, but must take into consideration access to basic social services, especially nutrition, water, sanitation, shelter, education and information.
UNICEF applauds this decision. It has long been UNICEF’s position that analyzing poverty solely on the basis of income is not enough to capture the experience of poverty’s youngest victims. Income poverty does not take into account other dimensions of poverty, such as social exclusion, discrimination and lack of protection – all of which, together with limited access to goods and services, have a devastating impact on the mental, physical and emotional development of children. Investing in children is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. Children are essential actors both in their development and in the development of their society.
Children’s well-being relies in large part on the availability and quality of basic services and an environment for play and leisure. Access to these does not always depend on family income but on the priorities and investments of the state. Lastly, income poverty assumes that all family members have an equal share of the family’s income, which is often not the case, particularly for girls.
For example, the Secretary General’s Violence Study, a groundbreaking study released in October 2006, reported that in parts of the world where girls are less valued than their brothers they are likely to receive less food, less medical attention and less schooling than their male siblings.
If poverty is understood as more than just income poverty, then responses need to address the broader picture of children’s experience of poverty. This can be achieved through policies that result in positive changes for children – creating better laws, increased budget allocations and better services for children
The definition adopted by the General Assembly contributes to making children visible in policy debates. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed – not only because the world has committed to reaching the Millennium Development Goals for its children, but because children are the agents of a more prosperous and equitable society.
For more information on the links between income poverty and the child’s increased risk to physical and psychological violence, go to www.violencestudy.org
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Geoff Keele, Press Officer, UNICEF NY: 212-326-7583; firstname.lastname@example.org