South Asia faces serious challenges to its progress:
Entrenched poverty: The majority of countries in South Asia have entered the 21st century with an enormous backlog of human deprivation. Human poverty remains the most fundamental challenge, with countries in the region still unable to secure basic rights for all their citizens or provide them with the means to live with dignity. South Asia, with GNI per capita at $510 in 2003, is home to 40 percent of the world’s poor living on less than $1 a day. The proportion of the national population living below $1 per day varies from 7 per cent in Sri Lanka to 35 per cent in India and 38 per cent in Nepal.
Debilitating discrimination: Children in South Asia face some of the worst forms of discrimination – and this discrimination is very often taken for granted by those who experience it as much as by those who perpetrate it.
The failure to achieve child rights and make more rapid progress in the wellbeing of children is clearly linked to failures in empowering women, enhancing their freedoms and expanding their capabilities. Millions of girls and women in South Asia live invisible and powerless lives, and become targets of violence both inside and outside their homes, unable to claim their rights or challenge their exclusion from social, economic and political processes.
Social Exclusion: South Asia is struggling with manifold layers of social exclusion: institutionally, within communities and between people. It has been argued that social exclusion is more entrenched in this region than anywhere in the world.Social exclusion is the systematic or de facto denial of access to entitlements and services, based on markers such as caste, clan, tribe, ethnicity, language, or religion. In South Asia, gender and income poverty cut across these markers and worsen social exclusion. While a great deal of research on social exclusion has been undertaken, its affects on children and how it transmits from one generation to another to perpetuate disadvantages remain under-explored.
Conflicts: The disparities, inequalities and discrimination faced by children in South Asia are a daunting challenge at the best of times but are magnified by the many conflicts in the region. While fighting in Afghanistan may attract headlines, many are so-called "low-grade conflicts" and insurgencies amounting to small wars within the borders of South Asian countries. Added to these are tensions between castes, religious groups and ethnic communities that are technically local, but whose effect engulfs whole nations. The militant mobilization of religious majorities against minorities in one country can lead to lethal reprisals in another country. Acts of terrorism have also become a prominent form of conflict.
Natural Disasters: The 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake which struck the Kashmir region both left behind powerful reminders of nature’s awesome potential for devastation. South Asia is one of the most disaster-prone places in the world – torrential rains, tornadoes, cyclones, droughts, and famine are no strangers to the area. These catastrophes destroy livelihoods, homes, schools and infrastructure and cause havoc in the lives of children and women when they strike.