XXI World Day for the Rights of Children and Adolescents

XXI World Day for the Rights of Children and Adolescents

The good news is that, throughout the world, less children under the age of five die than twenty years ago. In 1994, 34,000 children died because of preventable diseases, in 2008 the number had fallen by one third and the number of children who did not reach their fifth birthday was 22,000. For example, in 1974 in sub-Saharan Africa , of every 1000 live births, 226 died before reaching the age off five. Today 129 die. In Asia in 1974, 150 died, today of every thousand births only 50 die. In Latin America the trend is even more positive: 23 babies die in comparison to 123, 40 years ago. According to the UNICEF Report on the Condition of Infants in the World 2011, the country where most under fives die is Chad , followed by Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The bad news is that once these children become adolescents, they risk dying because of precarious styles of life. The case of Brazil is out standing. During the decade 1998-2008, 81,000 adolescents died between 15 and 18 years. According to the report 400,000 adolescents die every year in accidents. Besides accidents, adolescents die because of precocious pregnancies, exploitation, abuse and climatic changes, which are a great trial for the poorest parts of the world where 88% of all adolescents live.

Poverty is another risk for young people today, and not only in developing countries, but also in the so-called industrial countries where minors have been, and continue to be the principal victims of the economic crisis that began in 2008. Spain , Portugal , Italy , Poland , Romania , Greece , Estonia , and Lithuania are the European countries with the highest percentage of minors at risk of poverty, but the situation is not rosy in the other member states of the European Union either. According to Eurostat, one minor in five lives in a low income family, while the adults at risk of poverty form 14% of the population. This divergence highlights how the little ones also continue to be the least defended.

Another worrying statistic is the increase in mental and behavioural disturbances among young people. If the physical health of children and adolescents has improved notably, mental health is at risk in one young person in five. Depression is the most frequent cause of illness in persons between 15 and 19 years and suicide is one of the three principal causes of death among persons between 15 and 35 years. The prevalence of mental disturbances among adolescents has increased in the last 20-30 years and this, according to experts, is due to family breakdown, youth unemployment and the unrealistic educational and professional expectations of families for their children.

Every year, in November, the world celebrates the World Day for the Rights of Children and Adolescents in remembrance of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York in 1989. Twenty-one years have passed since the approval of the Convention and enormous improvements have been made regarding little ones. But there is still a long road of prevention, education and care to be travelled to safeguard the rights of adolescents .

Lucia Aversano  

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