Issues affecting children in Malaysia

A brief look at child rights and issues in Malaysia

children in school with Malaysian flag
UNICEFMalaysia/2019/Noorani

What is the challenge?

Malaysia is home to around 31.7 million people in 2017, a third of which, are children. 

So how is Malaysia doing?

Malaysia has made significant strides forward in reducing child poverty, eradicating diseases, protecting children from harm and bringing more children to school, both girls and boys. But not for every child…

There are still some children being left behind, and they are the most vulnerable and hardest to reach. Pockets of poverty remain and issues of inclusion and accessibility plague some of the most disadvantaged children.

Girl in dark kitchen covering face
UNICEFMalaysia/2017

You may not see them every day. But there are too many children in Malaysia who still live in poverty; are at risk of violence and exploitation; are embroiled in the justice system; live with disabilities; are indigenous children at risk or have no valid documentation and are stateless. The lack of opportunities prevents them from having access to services vital for achieving their full potential.

These are the children who need our help. Only when we invest in our children and strengthen our institutions to operate with a child-friendly lens will we see concrete advancement taking shape in our country’s development.

Approximately 451,900; 0-19 year olds (54% are in Sabah State) have no documentation

What is the solution?

Make Malaysia safer, healthier and greener for every child. How to do this? In a country like Malaysia, UNICEF does not provide aid that would only benefit a handful of children. Our approach is to help create an enabling environment where long-term change affects every child:

  • Carrying out research to make every child visible,
  • Advocating for and supporting child friendly policy change,
  • Building the capacity of the government and partners to provide quality services to every child,
  • Conducting public campaigns to change mindsets and perceptions.
  • Empower young people to be agents of change by equipping them with needed knowledge skills
  • Using innovation to improve the well-being of children
  • Raising funds to help children inside and outside Malaysia.

To achieve this, we are working hand in hand with the Malaysian government, private and public sector partners, and civil society organisations to invest more in children.

Some of the issues we are focusing on in the coming years include:

  • helping to set up mechanisms to keep children safe offline and online
  • making sure every child has the opportunity to access quality education
  • improving child wellbeing, especially nutrition

What can you do?

Lisa Surihani and young fans
UNICEFMalaysia/2018/FZahri

But laws and policy alone will not be enough if our culture and mindsets do not change. And it starts with each of us. If we want a brighter future for Malaysia tomorrow, we need to weed out practices harmful to children such as for example, child marriage, female genital mutilation, discrimination of children with disabilities and anti-vaccination stances. And we need to promote positive attitude and behaviors, such as healthy eating habits.

There are many things you can do at home to help us build a #MalaysiaBiru* for children.

Explanation of MalaysiaBiru
UNICEFMalaysia/2019/DChai

What you can do to support UNICEF:

  • Lobby your government for child-friendly systems and laws
  • Support local NGOs working on child rights
  • Share verified information on child health and well-being issues with your friends
  • Follow us on social media and share our content
  • Support UNICEF by becoming a donor
  • Be kind and instill kindness in your children
  • Help create an inclusive and nurturing environment for children where you live and work