Children in urban poor communities among the most disadvantaged
Manila, 23 August 2011– Children in urban settings are subject to grave risks to their development and well-being throughout their young lives, and the level of risk increases when they are poor, experts said at the Second Forum on Children in the Urban Environment. The Forum, spearheaded by the Department of Interior and Local Government and Institute of Philippine Culture, with support from UNICEF, gathered national and local governments, civil society, peoples‘ organizations, private sector and children themselves to develop concrete strategies, policies and programs that will address the vulnerabilities of children in urban poor communities.
The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. For the first time, more than half of the world’s people – and half the world’s children – are living in towns and cities. This urban proportion of the global population will continue to grow over the coming decades, meaning that, from now on, most of the world’s children will be located in towns and cities.
“While cities generate wealth, jobs and development opportunities, the disparities between those urban children who are in comfortable circumstances and those who live in poverty are vast. The swelling numbers of these ‘hidden’ poor children, often excluded from the opportunities enjoyed by wealthier city-dwellers and overlooked by authorities because of the informal status of their settlements, or because they are unregistered, are one of the greatest challenges to fulfilling the rights of children in this rapidly urbanizing world,” Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF Philippines country representative, said.
In the Philippines, there are an estimated 1.7 million children in 570,000 Metro Manila households who live in informal settlements, with counterparts in Cebu, Davao, and other large and medium-sized cities. Already the Philippines is an urban society with over half the population living in cities. Thousands lack food, health, potable water, sanitation, education, family planning, decent housing, information, and participation.
During the second Urban Forum, participants will be studying effective urban strategies and good practices in education, health, child protection and other issues in local governance. Young people will also be consulted to encourage urban children’s participation in matters that affect them.
“A writer once said that children could lead us into more perfect cities if we but listen to them. You see, a child-friendly city works best for everyone. It’s high time we give young people a voice,” Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said in his keynote speech.
The Forum will conclude with a commitment building from partners and the League of Cities of the Philippines, and the launching of “Safe and Friendly Cities for All,” a joint project of UNICEF, UN Women and UN Habitat.
UNICEF is now planning its new country programme for the next six years with a focus on reaching the poorest and most disadvantaged children, taking into account the vulnerabilities of children in conflict, disasters and urban slums.