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Child maltreatment in Asia-Pacific is costing countries US$ 209 billion each year, says UNICEF

Violence against children is preventable when people come together and say loudly and clearly that this is not acceptable. 

BANGKOK, Thailand, 2 June 2015 – Child abuse and violence is costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific around US $209 billion each year, equivalent to two (2) per cent of the region’s GDP, according to newly published research commissioned by UNICEF. This is the first ever costing of child maltreatment in the region and was conducted by a team of global experts using a proven methodology previously employed in Australia and the US.

“We all know that violence against children must stop because it is morally wrong. This research shows that inaction about violence results in serious economic costs to countries and communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole. “Governments need to take urgent action to address violence against children, both for the sake of the children themselves and for the wellbeing of future generations.”

The social and economic impact of child maltreatment include an added burden on already stretched health care systems, disability and death, and increased levels of violence and criminality. It is difficult for children who experience violence and abuse to grow up to be productive members of society, and their countries also risk losing the potential benefits to their communities these children might otherwise provide.

Breakdown of costs

The research follows previous studies on the prevalence of child maltreatment. It looks at the different types of maltreatment, and the cost to economies of each.

According to the study, the costs associated with emotional abuse are US $65.9 billion, those associated with physical abuse are $39.6 billion, sexual abuse costs about $39.9 billion, neglect costs $32.4 billion, witnessing domestic violence costs $31 billion and death from maltreatment costs an estimated $500 million.

The study notes that:

·      In lower middle income countries, 35 per cent of males have experienced physical abuse and 22 per cent of females have experienced sexual abuse

·      In high income countries, 42 per cent of females have experienced emotional abuse and 32 per cent of males have witnessed domestic violence

·      25 per cent of mental disorders among males in low income countries are attributable to physical abuse during childhood

·      31 per cent of mental disorders among females in lower middle income countries are attributable to sexual abuse during childhood

·      The percentage of GDP lost due to child maltreatment is highest in upper middle income countries, at 3.45 per cent, with the largest part (1.26%) due to emotional abuse.

Right to live free from violence

UNICEF is working with governments in the region to take action based on these findings.

All governments in the region have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits them to protect children from violence, abuse and maltreatment. More needs to be done to meet these commitments, including greater investment in social services.

“All children have the right to live free from violence, which harms their physical and mental growth, and inhibits the growth of their society and economies,” Daniel Toole said. “Violence against children often takes place behind closed doors but it is preventable when people come together and say loudly and clearly that this is not acceptable.”


Note to Editors:

Download materials
You can download the research overview, peer reviewed journal article, human interest stories, photos and videos here:

Child maltreatment in Malaysia
A snapshot of child abuse in Malaysia, according to gender, type of abuse, and perpetrator. Based on 2011 statistics from the Department of Social Welfare.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF in East Asia and the Pacific, visit:

For more information, please contact:

Christopher de Bono, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, Bangkok,
+66 02 3569406 (office) +66 84 427 7431 (mobile),

Andrew Brown, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, Bangkok,
+66 02 3569406 (office) + 66 84 3347506 (mobile),

Sasha Surandran, UNICEF Media Kuala Lumpur
+6 019 658 5160






Child Maltreatment Research Overview

Stop Child Abuse website

Report Child Abuse!

Raise Your Hand. Stop Child Abuse!

Quiz - Is it abuse if there is no violence?


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