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International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

CHILDHOOD UNDER THREAT

17 October

© UNICEF Malaysia/2011

Poverty denies children their rights

Millions of children around the world miss out on their childhood, a result of poverty. Poverty prevents children from enjoying equal opportunities. It blights their lives with ill health and malnutrition, depriving them of the capabilities needed to survive, develop and thrive. It also makes children more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, violence, discrimination and stigmatisation. In essence, poverty saps children’s energy and undermines their confidence in the future.

Children experience poverty with their hands, minds and hearts. Material poverty – for example, starting the day without a nutritious meal or engaging in hazardous labour – hinders emotional capacity as well as bodily growth. Living in an environment that provides little stimulation or emotional support to children, on the other hand, can remove many of the positive effects of growing up in a materially rich household. By discriminating against their participation in society and inhibiting their potential, poverty is a measure not only of children’s suffering but also of their disempowerment.

Poverty is transmitted from one generation to the next. Impoverished, malnourished mothers, for example, often give birth to under-weight babies. These babies are more likely to die and, if they do survive, they are less likely to grow and develop to their full potential. Chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illness can lead to poor school performance. Consequently, affected children are more likely to drop out of school early and work at occupations below the poverty line, if they manage to find work at all.

Breaking the cycle

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals and acting on child poverty are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Many of the deprivations children face can be addressed by a positive change in their family income and better access to basic social services. This will require greater awareness, concepts that tackle child poverty as a multidimensional notion, better monitoring and sharing of lessons, and efforts to build a broad coalition of agents.

Breaking the cycle of poverty depends on investments by governments, civil society and families in children's rights and wellbeing, and in women's rights. Spending on every child's health, nutrition, education, and social, emotional and cognitive development, and on achieving gender equality, is not only an investment in a more democratic and a more equitable society, it is also an investment in a healthier, more literate and, ultimately, more productive population. Investing in all children is morally the right thing to do. It is also a sound economic investment, with high rates of return.

The 17 October International Day for the Eradication of Poverty began in 1987 to bring together all those who are dedicated to overcoming poverty all year round and those who live with it on a daily basis.

 

 

 

 

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