Violence, Economic Crisis Threaten to Reverse Progress for Children
New Report on Children’s Rights in Jamaica Highlights Achievements and Pitfalls
KINGSTON, 20 November 2009 – Persistent violence, the fallout of the economic crisis and other major threats to childhood are putting Jamaica’s progress for children in jeopardy, warns the Office of the Children’s Advocate and UNICEF in a new report released today.
The agencies launched the report, “Jamaican Children: Twenty Years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child”, at a jointly hosted forum to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Convention. UNICEF also launched a special edition of its flagship “State of the World’s Children” report which reflects on the CRC’s impact on children’s rights globally.
The Convention is the first legally binding international convention to affirm human rights for all children. Since 1989, the CRC has achieved near-universal acceptance, having now been ratified by 193 states.
The local report commends the Jamaica Government for a number of positive trends, including the establishment of the Early Childhood Commission, Child Development Agency and the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act. It notes that children born in Jamaica today have more than a 97% chance of surviving beyond age five, almost a 100% chance of enrolling in school up to the secondary level, and will go on to live, on average for 73 years.
However, the agencies pointed to several gaps to be filled and to the dangerous implications of the economic crisis. “These are tough times for the entire country, but the strain caused by the economic crisis is hardest on children and women,” said UNICEF Representative Robert Fuderich, speaking at the event. “One in four Jamaican children continues to live in poverty. Any progress in reducing poverty is now at risk of being reversed, putting these most vulnerable children and their families in a very precarious position.”
Major challenges continue to prevent the fulfillment of Jamaican children’s rights. Crime and violence are wreaking havoc with childhood – between 2006 and 2008, 230 children under 17 years old were murdered. Every day, between 2007 and 2008, 17 children and adolescents were treated in emergency rooms for violence related injuries.
A UNICEF-supported 2009 Study on Child Poverty and Disparities in Jamaica led by Dr. Michael Witter found that the most severe deprivation of Jamaican children was in the area of health. Maternal and infant mortality rates are persistently high. Exclusive breastfeeding is persistently low, at only 15 per cent for children under six months. While most Jamaican children have access to education, quality issues plague schools at all levels.
The global report highlights some of the considerable progress made through the past twenty years, including the reduction in the annual number of deaths of children under five from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008, representing a 28 per cent decline in the rate of under five mortality and the gains in education that have made it possible for 84% of primary-school-age children to be in class today.
The report warns, however, that far more needs to be done to prevent the deaths of children from preventable causes, such as pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition, to ensure more children get a quality education, and are protected against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect.
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