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At a glance: Mexico

UNICEF launches flagship report in Mexico City, warns that cities are failing children

By Thomas Nybo

UNICEF’s flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’, was launched on 28 February, focusing attention on children in urban areas. One billion children live in urban areas, a number that is growing rapidly. Yet disparities within cities reveal that many lack access to schools, health care and sanitation, despite living alongside these services. This story is part of a series highlighting the needs of these children.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico, 29 February 2012 – UNICEF yesterday launched its flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’ in Mexico City, warning that rapid urbanization is leaving millions of disadvantaged children behind. At a press conference in the Presidential Palace, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and President of Mexico Felipe Calderón called for greater focus on children in slums and shantytowns who suffer from the greatest deprivations.

28 February 2012: UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on the launch of UNICEF's flagship publication, 'The State of the World's Children 2012: Children in an Urban World', in Mexico City. Photo credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0108/Sahagun


Millions excluded

"Today, for the first time in history, half of the world's people, including more than 1 billion children, live in cities and towns," he said. "Across Latin America and the Caribbean, nearly 80 per cent of the population already lives in urban areas. More than 75 per cent of Mexico's people live in cities and towns, including 24 million children."

His message was clear: Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services.

"When most of us think of a poor child, we tend to picture a rural child. We don't imagine as readily a girl living in the shadow of a city school that she will never attend, nor a boy growing up only a short walk from a health clinic he will never enter, nor a family deprived of services enjoyed by those living only streets away."

The reality is that marginalized urban children – including the children of migrants, indigenous children, and those living in slums and shantytowns – are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world. And soon, a majority of the world’s children will grow up in towns and cities, placing even greater importance on understanding and meeting their needs.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0107/Sahagun
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake presents a copy of UNICEF’s ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012’ to President of Mexico Felipe Calderón, at the report’s launch at the Presidential Palace in Mexico City, Mexico.

Mexico City is itself home to millions of children, and a major challenge the country faces is the lack of opportunities for indigenous children. Mr. Lake saw this first-hand when he visited a community centre in the crowded neighbourhood of Iztapalapa. The centre offers basic classes twice a week for children who are otherwise excluded from educational services.

"Today in a visit to Iztapalapa, I met some of those children," Mr. Lake said to the crowd at the presidential palace. "None of them are now in school, but if they get the education they deserve, just imagine the contributions they, and so many other children in a similar situation, will make to the future of Mexico and to nations around the world."

Working together to protect children

Mr. Lake, speaking to the officials and dignitaries present, praised Mexico’s leadership in addressing these issues. "This nation, home to one of the world's largest mega-cities is already confronting the challenges of urbanization and seeking new ways to reap the opportunities that it provides – for urbanization is inevitable here in Mexico, around the globe and especially in the developing world,” Mr. Lake said.

President Calderón spoke of the government’s joint efforts with UNICEF to protectchildren.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0107/Sahagun
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake speaks at the launch of ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012’ flagship report, at the Presidential Palace in Mexico City, Mexico.

"We in Mexico want to join the efforts of UNICEF to protect girls, boys and adolescents," President Calderón said. "We want to invest more in them. We know that investing in them means a better future for humanity."

President Calderon described a new protocol with the Supreme Court of Justice, developed in partnership with UNICEF. The objective is to give medical attention, psychological attention, affection, care, protection to all the girls, all the boys, and all the little ones that suffer violence.”

He also pledged his support for UNICEF’s efforts to improve the lives of all children.

Mr. Lake closed his remarks by calling on all nations to meet the challenges and address the inequities of urbanization. 

“We must make our cities fit for children, and in doing so, make them better places for all.”



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