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Overcoming inequality by eradicating child poverty


By Maria Cristina Perceval
UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Director

For the past 20 years, the economic, social and cultural progress in Latin America and the Caribbean has positively impacted child welfare, creating better institutional conditions and the genuine possibility for children and adolescents to exercise and enjoy their rights.

During this period, the region has succeeded in reducing the mortality of children under 5 years old by 67 per cent, and 94 per cent are currently registered at birth. It is also encouraging that today, in all countries of the region, more boys and girls are attending school than ten years ago.

However, 3.6 million children of primary school age still do not attend school; they have not been given the opportunity or been provided with the conditions to do so.

Many challenges and tasks are still left undone, urging us to continue working tirelessly for more just, inclusive and dignified societies. Here, in the most unequal region of the world, childhood is in danger. We must change.

It is imperative that we forge a committed, broad and democratic social movement to overcome inequality.

We must understand and assume that inequality is not inevitable, just as it is not inevitable that seven out of ten children with disabilities will not attend school in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We must work together to get to the roots of the myriad and diverse manifestations of inequality.

We must act together, starting from the earliest years, to prevent inequality from destroying the right to a dignified life and perpetuating endless disparities throughout human lives.

Overcoming inequality demands that we all become trailblazers of change: it is the duty of states, the responsibility of the private sector, and an increasingly urgent aspiration of societies as a whole. Children and adolescents have the full right to have their voices and desires heard and taken into account.

We all, without exception, deserve to live in a world that can overcome inequality.

We must take the first step and join together to fulfill the promise to overcome inequality by eradicating child poverty without delay or excuses. We must embark on this task honestly, creatively and with a sense of solidarity.

We must take the first step in the most unequal region of the world, where 70 million of the total 195 million children and adolescents currently live in poverty and 28.3 million in extreme poverty.

We must take the first step because the brutality of poverty is revealed in almost half the faces of children and adolescents in our region, particularly striking indigenous and Afro-descendant children, migrants, those with one or more disabilities, those affected by natural disasters and climate change, those living in rural areas and violent peri-urban environments, those born into poor households, or those who, simply because they are children, are exposed to multiple situations and conditions of exclusion, violence or discrimination.

Clearly, this situation is ethically unacceptable, but in reality, it should be politically, economically, culturally and socially unacceptable; it is a blatant violation of the Human Rights of thousands upon thousands of children and adolescents in our region, where all Member States have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have, therefore, assumed the sovereign responsibility to ensure that, progressively, without excuses, universally and without discrimination, the rights of all children must be honored, fulfilled, protected, and guaranteed.

At UNICEF, on reaching our first 70 years and within the framework of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, we call for action to overcome inequality by eradicating child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We can and must achieve it.

To achieve this goal, we must change, innovate, work together and, above all, act.

The ambitious goal of overcoming inequality by eradicating child poverty in our region requires moving beyond fragmented and sector specific attitudes and taking concerted and efficient action to design and implement universal and inclusive policies and to create or strengthen comprehensive systems of social protection so that no boy or girl is left behind.

Overcoming inequality by eradicating child poverty in our region requires governments to invest more in childhood. We will not be able to eradicate child poverty if public investment in children remains on average five percent of GDP, as is the case today.

In order to overcome inequality by eradicating child poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, not only governments but society as a whole must be the dynamic, vibrant voice of a movement that recognizes that children’s rights are indeed a priority—not because the Convention requires it—but because our children deserve it.

A more egalitarian Latin America and the Caribbean, without poor children and adolescents, will spare us the embarrassment and shame of having the highest infanticide rate on the planet of 25,000 every year.

At UNICEF, we are convinced that a more egalitarian region without child poverty is indeed possible.

We summon everyone to envision and then to work to create a Latin America and the Caribbean that, in 2030, is dramatically transformed from our 2016 reality. Let us look back from the year 2030 having achieved improved living conditions for the 34 million people who used to use unimproved drinking water sources in 2016; let us look back having guaranteed access to adequate sanitation services for the 106 million who lacked access; let us look back having achieved the inclusion of the 14 million children and adolescents who were previously outside the educational system and having eradicated chronic malnutrition affecting 6 million children; finally, let us look back having eliminated sexual violence in the lives of 1.1 million adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19.

UNICEF dreams of a more egalitarian Latin America and the Caribbean with no child poverty and strives to make a dignified, free and non-violent life a reality for all children inhabiting the region.

For the work we have done together these 70 years, thank you!

For what remains yet to be done, here we are!

11 December 2016.


You can download multimedia content here [video]

For more information, please contact:
Andrés A. López, Regional Chief of Communication, UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean, Tel: +507 6617 1365, aalopez@unicef.org

At UNICEF, we promote the rights and well being of all children and adolescents in everything we do. Together with our allies, we work in 190 countries and territories to transform this commitment into practical actions that benefit all children, focusing our efforts especially to reach the most vulnerable and excluded, around the world.

For more information on UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org/lac.


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