Online: Claire Leigh, Director of Global Policy, Advocacy and Research, Save the Children UK.
People around the world are hoping that the bells ringing in 2022 will herald the start of a better era after two years of a global pandemic that has decimated economies, strained health systems to their limits and increasingly shaping politics. However, multiple nested crises are expected to characterize the New Year.
For the children of the world, Save the Children expects their impact to be felt the hardest in the following areas. These seven “greatest challenges” for children will need to be tackled with vigor and creativity if 2022 is not to be another year of decline in children’s rights around the world.
CHALLENGE 1: SURVIVE THE RETURN OF MASSIVE HUNGER ON A SCALE UNMATCHED IN DECADES
In 2021, a perfect storm of COVID, conflict and climate change has pushed millions more children into malnutrition, and by 2022, it is estimated that two million children under the age of five will die from causes related to malnutrition. hunger. Leaders gathered to discuss the growing emergency in Japan in early December, but will they keep their promises?
CHALLENGE 2: RETURN TO SCHOOL AFTER TWO YEARS OF INTERRUPTED EDUCATION
Ugandan children, many of whom have not returned to school since March 2020, hope they can do so in the new year. Worldwide, an estimated 117 million children are still out of school due to COVID-19. This is in addition to the 260 million children who were out of school even before the pandemic. Save the Children has organized “catch-up clubs” to ensure that students do not fall too late while school doors remain closed. But the longer children stay out of school, the less likely they are to re-enroll, as girls are particularly at risk of dropping out, often to get married. The impact of the loss of education seems likely to be dramatic; a recent study suggests that children unable to read basic text before the age of 10 may already have gone from 53% before COVID to 70% today.
CHALLENGE 3: GETTING “BLAH BLAH BLAH” LEADERS TO ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November represented a highlight for youth activism, with growing assertion and impatience from the popular youth movement of which Greta Thunberg is the standard-bearer. The promises made by world leaders in Glasgow fall short of the task ahead, and children are most at risk of adult inaction in the face of the unfolding disaster. All eyes will be on COP27 to see if leaders can turn Glasgow’s “blah blah blah” into concrete action to secure children’s futures.
CHALLENGE 4: LIVING WITH CONFLICT IN HIGH NUMBERS
A record 200 million children now live in the world’s deadliest war zones, a 20% increase from 162 million a year earlier. Many of these children are already on the front lines of climate change and battling life-threatening hunger pangs. Children’s and human rights organizations are working to protect children from the worst effects of war, for example by pushing 112 countries to adhere to the Safe Schools Declaration, which bans children schools in war zones.
CHALLENGE 5: LOSS OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN THE NAME OF THE FIGHT AGAINST TERRORISM
The rise of non-state armed groups, their recruitment and use of children has led to often draconian policies towards the children affiliated with them. From children trapped in camps in northeastern Syria due to their alleged affiliation with ISIS to children associated with armed groups in the DRC, they are often detained indefinitely, stripped of their citizenship or face terrible discrimination . In 2022, work will continue to demobilize, release, repatriate and reintegrate these children to give them back what remains of their childhood.
CHALLENGE 6: NAVIGATE THE DISPLACEMENT AND FIND SANCTUARY PLACES
More children have been forcibly displaced today than at any time since World War II. Between 2005 and 2020, the number of refugee children under UNHCR’s mandate more than doubled, from four million to around 10 million. Images of children crossing borders or dying in the process have regularly moved audiences and sometimes changed policies. While the flow of desperate families seeking refuge shows no signs of slowing down, the question in 2022 is whether children can expect to encounter rods or ropes as they make their way to safety.
CHALLENGE 7: AVOID AN INCREASE IN CHILD MORTALITY FROM COVID-19
There have been dramatic reductions in infant mortality rates over the past 30 years, falling nearly 60% since 1990. However, unprecedented demands on health services around the world due to the COVID-pandemic 19 have caused diseases that were previously in decline to resurface. Deaths from malaria, previously on a long-term downward trajectory, have increased in 32 countries since the start of the pandemic. There is a very real chance that child mortality will increase in 2022 for the first time in decades, which represents a disastrous reversal for the health of children around the world. That said, recent advances such as the world’s first effective malaria vaccine offer hope that vaccine advances spurred by the pandemic could benefit children in the long run.
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