UNICEF calls for shielding children from silent dangers of abuse violence exploitation

Damage from these “silent dangers” lurks in every society in the world and occurs even when a child was well-nourished or immunized, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a message ahead of World Health Day on Monday.”A well-nourished child who is beaten at home is not a healthy child,” she declared. “A child who is sexually abused at school is not a healthy child. An immunized child who is forced into hazardous child labour is not a healthy child. Such abuse and exploitation has huge implications for the long-term health and development of millions of children.” Noting the World Health Day theme of “Healthy Environments for Children,” Ms. Bellamy said governments and communities had to address both the physical environment in which children spend their days, and the “protective” environment that is essential to keeping every child out of harm’s way.”Children must have every chance to survive and thrive,” she added. “The risks that jeopardize the health and well-being of children must not be limited to diseases and infections. Children must live in a protective environment that fortifies them against exploitation in the same way that good health and nutrition fortify them against disease.” UNICEF noted that the fundamental environmental health risks included poor sanitation, unclean water, inadequate hygiene, pollution, and other environmental hazards that could lead to fatal diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infection. But a “protective environment” was just as crucial to their health and development in shielding them from “the silent dangers,” it added. “Children have the right to an environment that safeguards them not only against disease, but against ill-treatment,” Ms. Bellamy said. Tens of millions of children suffer severe abuse and violence each year, the agency noted. In the last decade, millions of children have died as a result of conflicts, while over the same period 6 million have been injured or disabled in wars.An estimated 300,000 children are being used as child soldiers, including girls used as sex slaves and exposed to diseases such as HIV, while over 180 million children are engaged in hazardous child labour and some 5.7 million are enslaved in bonded labour. An estimated 100 million girls and women have endured genital mutilation, usually carried out in childhood or adolescence, it added.”The fact that these abuses still exist is a manifestation of the world’s systematic failure to protect those who are most defenceless,” Ms. Bellamy said. “All children have a right to grow up in an environment that ensures their protection.”Noting that globally, nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday – overwhelmingly from causes that are preventable and treatable – Ms. Bellamy said children face serious environmental health hazards in the very places where they are thought to be most safe: the school and the community. Most schools in the developing world lack basic sanitary facilities and sources of potable water, while open sewage, unsafe disposal of domestic and industrial waste, and pollution of sources of water supply expose children to a host of dangers in the very places where they play, she added.

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