Almost half the world’s children live in cities.
An UNICEF report, entitled “The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World,” reveals the shifting focus of aid and development agencies.
“We often think of poverty-stricken rural areas in Africa, Latin America and Asia,” says David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada . “But you can be in cities, almost like middle-class Toronto, and hidden in valleys there are people are living in shacks made of tin. We recognize this is where economic and population growth is going to happen and how do we make sure children don’t get squeezed out in the process?”
It’s often thought that opportunity abounds in cities. Families may be closer to schools or health services. But that doesn’t mean all have the same access, says David Morley. “The wealth divide between rich and poor is massive.” Many can’t afford the cost of uniforms and books or pay the fees for schools.
In Delhi, only 55 per cent of children who live in slums attend primary school, compared to 90 per cent for the city as a whole.
Of 503 health centres in three slum communities in Kenya showed only one per cent were public, 16 per cent were private not-for-profit, and the vast majority, 83 per cent, were private for-profit. These clinics were often unlicensed, in ramshackle buildings with no protocols for service.
Around the world, about one-third of children of the urban poor — the numbers are higher in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia — are not registered at birth. If you’re not registered at birth you can’t get a health card. Those without health cards didn’t get treatment.
Morley explained “Governments use it as a way of rationing services and they can save money.”