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No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, future: report

Climate activists participate in a student-led climate change march in Los Angeles, United States on Friday, November 1, 2019.

Climate activists participate in a student-led climate change march in Los Angeles, United States on Friday, November 1, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

They face existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures, say experts

No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their future, according to a recently released report by a Commission of more than 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world. The Commission was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet.

The report, “A Future for the World’s Children?’’ finds that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at them.

The index shows that children in Norway, the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while children in the Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds.

In the report assessing the capacity of 180 countries, India stands 77th (sustainability index) and is at 131st on a ranking that measures the best chance at survival and well-being for children.

The report says India has improved in health and sanitation but has to increase its spending on health. It also cautions that world-wide the number of obese children and adolescents has increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 — an 11-fold increase, with dire individual and societal costs.

“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled and is set to reverse,” said co-chiar of the Commission, Helen Clark, adding that it has been estimated that around 250 million children under five in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty. But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.

“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today but protect the world they will inherit,” she said.

According to the report, while the poorest countries need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives, excessive carbon emissions — disproportionately from wealthier countries — threaten the future of all children. If global warming exceeds 4°C by 2100 in line with current projections, this would lead to devastating health consequences for children, due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue and malnutrition.

“More than 2 billion people live in countries where development is hampered by humanitarian crises, conflicts and natural disasters, problems increasingly linked with climate change,” said Minister Awa, co-chair of the Commission. “While some of the poorest countries have among the lowest CO2 emissions, many are exposed to the harshest impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Promoting better conditions today for children to survive and thrive nationally does not have to come at the cost of eroding children’s future globally.”

The only countries on track to beat the CO2 emission per capita targets by 2030, while also performing fairly (within the top 70) on child flourishing measures are: Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.

“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are, too often, failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights and failing to protect their planet,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation said. “This must be a wakeup call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 9:15:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/no-single-country-is-adequately-protecting-childrens-health-future-report/article30895539.ece

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