We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

Press centre

Child Protection

Birth Registration

  • Around 51 million children born in 2007 have not had their births registered. Nearly half of these children live in South Asia. One in four developing countries with available data has birth registration rates of less than 50 per cent.
  • Nearly two out of three children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia were not registered in 2007.
  • Children under five who have been denied the right to identity tend to be poor and many children without a birth certificate live in rural areas. However, in some regions and countries, there are still intra-country disparities between urban and rural areas and between rich and poor.

Violence against children

  • It is impossible to measure the true magnitude of violence against children worldwide. There is a lack of data on the exact number of child victims because so much happens in secret and is not reported. However, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are estimated to experience violence annually.  In each year as many as 275 million children worldwide are estimated to witness domestic violence.
  • In the Global School Based Student Health Survey, between 20% and 65% of school-aged children reported being verbally or physically bullied in school in the previous 30 days.
  • While the family should be the natural environment for protection of children, the home can also be a place where children experience violence in the form of discipline. Data from 37 countries shows that 86 per cent of children 2–14 years old experience physical punishment and/or psychological aggression. Two out of three children are subject to physical punishment.

Child Labour

  • It has been estimated that 158 million children, aged 5-14, are engaged in labour, as of 2006. More than one third of children in sub-Saharan Africa work.
  • The International labour Organization (ILO) estimates that more than two thirds of all child labour is in the agricultural sector. It has found that children in rural areas – girls in particular – begin agricultural labour as young as 5-7 years old.

Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

  • UNICEF estimates that 70 million girls and women aged 15–49 in 28 countries in Africa, plus Yemen have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).The prevalence of FGM/C has declined slowly but steadily during the past decades. Older girls and younger women are less likely to have experienced any form of FGM/C than older women. Some 60 per cent of girls and women who have been cut live in sub-Saharan Africa, while 40 per cent live in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • There are 29 countries in which the prevalence of FGM/C is 1 per cent or more, according to data from nationally representative household surveys; of those countries only Yemen is outside the African continent.

Child Marriage

  • As of 2007 worldwide, more than 60 million women aged 20–24 were married before they reached the age of 18. The extent of child marriage varies substantially between countries, but about half of the girls who are affected live in South Asia.
  • In the developing world, the latest international estimates indicate that more than one third of women aged 20–24 were married or in union before the age of 18. In some regions, the incidence of child marriage is particularly high, at 46 per cent in South Asia, and 39 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the latest estimates.
  • Child marriage is becoming less common overall, but the pace of change is slow. In the six countries where child marriage is most prevalent, more than 60 per cent of women 20-24 years old married as children.

Children Associated with Armed Conflict

  • An estimated 250,000 children are involved in conflicts around the world. They are used as combatants, messengers, spies, porters, cooks, and girls in particular are forced to perform sexual services, depriving them of their rights and their childhood.
  • UN Country Task Forces on the monitoring and reporting of grave child rights violations, including child recruitment, have been established in 14 countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, the Philippines and Uganda.
  • A 2004 report found that in at least 65 countries around the world, boys and girls are recruited into Government military forces, either legally as volunteers, or illegally through force or deception.

Child Trafficking

  • Estimation of the number of child trafficking continues to be a challenge given the clandestine nature of the crime. Variation in the numbers prevail depending on methodology used. ILO in 2005, for example, estimated that 980,000 to 1,250,000 children - both boys and girls - are placed in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking (http://www.ilo.org/ipec/areas/Traffickingofchildren/lang--en/index.htm). 
  • Evidence from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicates that more than 20 per cent of victims of all trafficking, both within countries and across borders, are children, while the 2006 US Department of State Annual Trafficking in Persons report notes that of the 600,000 – 800,000 trafficked across international border annually, 50% are children (http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2006/65983.htm). 

Children without Parental Care

  • It has been estimated that more than 2 million children are in institutional care around the world, with more than 800,000 of them in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS). This global estimate is likely to be severely underestimated due to under-reporting and lack of reliable data.

Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children

  • There are few accurate statistics regarding sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children as these crimes are often covert, secret and associated with intense feelings of shame that prevent children and adults from seeking help and reporting them.
  • Although statistics in relation to sexual abuse and exploitation are broad estimations and should be treated with caution, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 are estimated to have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence and exploitation involving physical contact.  In 2000, it was estimated that 1.8 million children were being sexually exploited in prostitution and pornography.  Around 1 million children are thought to enter prostitution every year.

Justice for Children

  • More than 1 million children are detained through justice systems worldwide at any one time, although this is likely to be a significant underestimate given the difficulties in obtaining data about the many unreported children in custody. Not only are data collected inconsistently, they often do not include children awaiting trial, young children detained with their parents or children held temporarily by the police.
  • Among 44 countries for which data were available, around 59 per cent of children in detention had not been sentenced.

Children with Disabilities

  • It is estimated that, overall, some 650 million people worldwide live with a disability.
  • Mortality for children with disabilities under five can be as high as 80 per cent in some income poor countries.
  • Reliable statistics on children with disabilities are difficult to obtain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 10 per cent of the world’s children and young people, some 200 million, have sensory, intellectual or mental health impairment. Around 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.




 Printer friendly

New enhanced search