UN Child Rights Treaty: Where Does the World Stand After 30 Years?

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' on 20 November 1989. It's been exactly 30 years since the landmark convention, also hailed as the world's most widely ratified humans rights treaty.

Today, the convention stands at a crossroads. While it has some historic achievements to its name, there is still a lot more to be done at the global level.

A UN report released on the 30th anniversary discusses this very need: of including those who have been left behind, and addressing issues that need urgent attention.

Also Read: India Still Has a Long Way to Go in Terms of Child Nutrition: CNNS

Key Highlights

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, in an open letter to the world’s children, said,

Henrietta H. Fore“Three decades ago, polio paralyzed or killed almost 1000 children every day. Today, 99 percent of those cases have been eliminated. Many of the interventions behind this progress, such as vaccines, oral rehydration salts and better nutrition, have been practical and cost-effective.”

  1. Child mortality: Global child deaths have more than halved since 1989, with gains made in every region and country, although disparities are widespread among and within countries.

  2. Decline albeit inequity in underfive mortality: This decline has been possible because of improvements in many other arenas of child health and survival, such as meeting nutritional needs and education requirements of mothers; widespread immunization coverage and other essential treatment to prevent and treat diseases; the availability and quality of maternal and child health services (including prenatal care); access to safe drinking water and sanitation; and the overall safety of the child’s environment.

  3. Immunization coverage: In the five years between 2012 and 2017, the rate of immunization coverage for children living in urban areas was 10 percent higher than for those in rural areas. "Immunization coverage’ here refers to children receiving three doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP-3) vaccine and at least one dose of the measles vaccine."

  4. Gaps in measles immunization coverage: Even though childhood immunization coverage against DTP-3 and measles reached 86 per cent globally in 2018, nearly 20 million children were still at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.

Also Read: The Unsung Heroes Behind India’s Progress in Child Health

Halfway Through; Remaining Challenges

In her open letter, Fore also said,

“Poverty, inequality, discrimination and distance continue to deny millions of children their rights every year, as 15,000 children under 5 still die every day, mostly from treatable diseases and other preventable causes.”

  1. Stagnation: The progress made in most of the discussed areas is at risk of being diminished, and perhaps even reversed because of a lack of persistence in efforts. The report mentions immunization as an example. While many lives have been saved with childhood vaccination, 'the drive for global immunization has stalled', leading to the resurgence of diseases like measles in many countries.

  2. Humanitarian crises and children: Children in humanitarian crises are forced to separate from their homes and families and are deprived of basic amenities like food, water and sanitation. They're also vulnerable to exploitation, injury and death. "Amid the crisis in Yemen, about 400,000 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition in 2018."

  3. Climate threat: The report mentions three ways in which climate change is already affecting children: increased burden of disease, greater food insecurity and threats to water and sanitation. "Addressing climate change, and preparing now for its impact, will be critical to protect hard-won gains in child survival."

  4. Persistent gender inequality: Gender inequalities have dire and lasting consequences in terms of opportunities, health, access and survival. Younger girls are still at an increased risk of gender-based violence and discrimination.

Report“Menstruation remains taboo in many places, and without proper awareness and assistance, the health, welfare and educational prospects of millions of adolescent girls are therefore at risk.”

The progress made in protecting children and making quality healthcare available for them cannot be denied. However, complacency on the part of the global and national communities, along with emerging challenges such as climate change, continue to pose a threat. The UNICEF report calls for action from around the world, "And so, over the next 12 months, UNICEF plans to conduct a global dialogue on what it will take to make the promise of the Convention a reality for every child."

Also Read: Unequal Progress In Global Child and Maternal Health : UN Report

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