New Delhi: No single country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, finds a landmark report, titled “A Future for the World’s Children”, released on Wednesday by a Commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world.
The Commission was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet.
According to the report, 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 children.
“Despite improvements in child and adolescent health over the past 20 years, progress has stalled, and is set to reverse,” said Helen Clark former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Co-Chair of the Commission.
“It has been estimated that around 250 million children under five years old in low- and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential, based on proxy measures of stunting and poverty,” Clark said.
He said an even greater concern is that every child worldwide currently faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures.
Key Findings of the Report
- According to the report, which includes an index of 180 countries, the poorest nations need to do more to support their children’s ability to live healthy lives.
- It also said excessive carbon emissions disproportionately from wealthier countries threaten the future of all children.
- If global warming exceeds 4 degree Celsius by the year 2100 in line with current projections, the Commission said this would lead to devastating health consequences for children, due to rising ocean levels, heatwaves, proliferation of diseases like malaria and dengue, and malnutrition.
- According to the Commission, children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival and well-being, while those in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali face the worst odds.
Per Capita Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions
- When the authors took per capita carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into account, the top countries trailed behind Norway ranked 156, the Republic of Korea 166, and the Netherlands 160, the report noted.
- Each of the three countries emits 210 per cent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target, it said, adding that the US, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the ten worst emitters.
- The Commission called for a stop on CO2 emissions with the utmost urgency, to ensure children have a future on this planet.
How Children are Getting Affected by Advertising
The report also noted that children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, while youth exposure to vaping advertisements increased by more than 250 per cent in the US over two years.
Commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages, it added, is associated with purchase of unhealthy foods and higher risk of obesity in children.