© UNICEF Thailand/2011/Athit
Twelve-year-old Nuch (not her real name) studies at an informal classroom in an urban slum in Bangkok, Thailand
We also work on a range of issues that involve and are important for all sectors and policy areas. These include:
Adolescents and youth
East Asia and the Pacific is home to 329 million adolescents aged 10-19, who are growing up in a world of unparalleled opportunity and social and political change. Young people are calling for better education, employment and chances to participate and engage in society. Their needs and perspectives need to be taken into account in policies and programmes.
UNICEF works to build awareness of issues faced by adolescents – including teenage pregnancy, mental health and social cohesion – and identify solutions. We also support country-level programmes for young people, and are strengthening partnerships with national youth-oriented organizations.
Children with disabilities
There are around 650 million people with disabilities in East Asia and the Pacific, who are amongst the most marginalized in society. An estimated 190 million are children, with generally limited access to basic services, education, protection and psychosocial support. They are also highly vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect.
UNICEF works to ensure that development programmes are sensitive to the rights of children with disabilities, and respond to their needs. We promote policies and initiatives that remove the barriers that keep children with disabilities from realizing their rights.
Cities as opportunity
Nearly half of the population of East Asia and the Pacific now lives in urban areas. While cities often offer better access to education, health services and employment, they can also be settings for social tension, disparities and risks to children. Poverty and marginalization are increasing in many urban areas, and violence and exploitation is often most apparent in cities. The informal settlements which exist in many cities often consist of poorly constructed shelters located on marginal land that is especially vulnerable to natural hazards.
UNICEF works with governments and partners to improve the lives of children and adolescents in cities by building up evidence on urban issues, strengthening partnerships with municipal leaders, supporting innovations in service delivery, and promoting policies, programmes and research with an urban dimension.
Middle income countries
A majority of countries in the region are now classified as middle income countries (MICs) with gross national income per person above $1,024 USD. Governments are increasingly able to fund and implement development programmes directly, engaging UNICEF as a strategic partner. Yet within this broad group, many MICs continue to face high levels of poverty among certain populations, high unemployment, growing inequality and social exclusion.
UNICEF works to address these challenges by strengthening partnerships at different levels, collecting evidence to inform policymaking and programmes, enhancing community engagement, and assisting governments to develop and implement large-scale programmes.
Preparing for natural disasters
Among the world’s regions, East Asia and the Pacific is most affected by natural disasters. The poor, vulnerable and marginalized are disproportionately affected, especially children and women. Disaster risks continue to increase, exacerbated in different settings by weak development planning, population growth, rapid urbanization and climate change. The region also continues to be confronted by violence and social unrest in many countries, with substantial impacts on children.
UNICEF supports countries to withstand, adapt to and recover from a wide range of stresses and shocks by strengthening national capacity for disaster risk reduction, preparedness and response; analysing risks; and developing strategies to strengthen the resilience of families and communities.
Economic and social development in East Asia and the Pacific has helped to lift millions out of poverty and has contributed to unprecedented gains for children. In this process, countries in the region exchange experiences, lessons and ideas, in order to build their own capacity and introduce new approaches.
UNICEF actively promotes such ‘South-South’ cooperation for children through support to inter-country exchange and through regional initiatives, including high level meetings held in Beijing and New Delhi which have strengthened governments’ commitment to work together to advance child rights.