Children (0 -17 years of age) of the Maldives represent almost 40% of the population according to the Census 2006. The recent increase in the total population is due to increase in the numbers of young children (0-4 years) and adult population. Children are unevenly distributed among the geographic regions with the biggest number concentrated in the capital Male’ and the smallest number in the Central region. Economic inequalities are in the country are significant. North region is the second largest by child population. If the overall poverty ratio for the region is applied to children, estimated over 14,000 poor children live there. In Male’, though the overall poverty rate is lower, estimated number of poor children would be over 14,800 as the capital is the largest by child population size. Though the number of child population in 2006 and poverty ratio in 2009/10 are not strictly comparable, in the absence of calculated child poverty ratios an estimated number is obtained, suggesting that throughout the country the poor children are around 61,000. Income disparities are significant, more so in Male’ than in the atolls. Discrepancy between the income of the richest households and the rest in the capital is particularly high. The top 10% of households in Male’ alone were holding almost half (48.6%) of the total income in 2009/10.
The size of household income sets the limitation on the amount of expenditure; household priorities dictate where proportionately more money should go. Poor households spend proportionately more on food than rich families, yet the amount spent is much lower. Chronic insufficient food intake leads to stunting, a life-time condition with detrimental effects especially for children’s development. Available evidence suggests that nutrition of young children has improved over a decade. Yet, the proportion of under-nourished children in 2009 was still unacceptably high. Stunting in children under five years of age is at 18.9%.
The country has made good progress with enrolment of young children, 3-4 years of age, in different forms of early childhood education: from 51.2% in 2001 to 70.7% in 2009. Enrolment of both boys and girls has been maintained close to universal at primary level and has increased substantially at secondary level over the period 2001-2011.
Children in conflict with the law, although shows an increase, very few children have been convicted of serious crimes. The most common offence committed by boys is theft, the majority of girls who are subject to police investigation are charged with sexual offences Drug addiction was cited as a significant contributing factor to juvenile offending. The Violence against Children Study (2010, unpublished) in the Maldives reported that 11.6% of Maldivian children (aged 4-late teens) experience violence in a range of settings including in the family, communities, schools and educational settings, in care and justice systems
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