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Increasing urbanization creates challenges and opportunities for children in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, 28 February 2012 - A new global UNICEF report highlights the challenges that face many children living in cities and towns around the world, and points to examples of good practice that can improve children’s well-being.

The UNICEF report, “State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in the Urban World”, notes that already half of all people – including more than one billion children – live in urban areas, with the numbers of urban dwellers steadily growing.

Pakistan has 37 per cent of its population living in urban areas. By 2025, over half of Pakistan’s population will live in cities; nine cities already have more than a million people. The transition to a largely urban population and the emergence of mega-urban regions is viewed as an engine of growth in the Government’s Framework for Economic Growth.
Equitable access to quality basic social services, including health, nutrition, water, sanitation, education and protection is constrained by multiple levels of deprivation and exclusion. “The challenge is to proactively address the many dimensions of deprivation and exclusion by ensuring equity in the provision of basic social services and social protection,” said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Dan Rohrmann. “While continuing to serve poor rural children, UNICEF Pakistan also is planning to greatly increase its programming for children in the poorest urban neighbourhoods.”

As an example, in 2009, the average number of years of schooling for children was 5.7 years, however the disparity between the poorest 15 per cent of the population and the highest 15 per cent was between 2.41 and 8.95 years across different provinces. Girls living in urban areas in the highest income group received an average of 9.39 years of schooling compared with 1.01 years for rural girls in the lowest income group.

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in urban areas face a host of challenges that reduce their chance to reach full potential in a productive adult work force. These challenges include low levels of birth registration, inadequate access to sanitation and safe water services, education and health services.

The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2012 Report includes examples of good practices from around the world spanning service delivery, social protection, and safe and inclusive environments for children in urban areas. It also outlines key steps for an equitable development approach for reaching the poorest children in urban areas.

At the global level, UNICEF and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) have worked together for 15 years on the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative, building partnerships with governments and civil society to put children at the centre of the urban agenda and to provide services and create protected areas so children can have the safer and healthier childhoods they deserve. In Pakistan, UN-Habitat and UNICEF have been working together to scale up sanitation for the poorest families.
The full SOWC 2012 report may be downloaded from



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