We say that our children are our future but it is also true that the legacy we leave is their future. On the International Children's Day let us examine state of affairs we bequeath to our successors in the year 2016 and hope that the writings of this day can help galvanize people into making the world a better place by this time next year.
Today, there are 2.2 billion children in the world, in which NATO member states alone spend one point two trillion dollars, that is 1,200,000,000,000 USD per year, each and every year, on their military budgets. Surely, in a world where there is enough money to produce missiles to kill people and submarines to sink ships and destroy the habitat of our whales and dolphins, there is enough money to make sure that every child is born with the same birthrights.
Let us take a look at the facts and figures, produced by UNICEF (United Nations International Emergency Children's Fund). One million children die every year on their day of birth. Eleven children under five years of age die every minute. Millennium Development Goal 4, to reduce under-five infant mortality by two-thirds, has not been reached.
1,400 children die each day from diarrhea, which is responsible for 9 per cent of all deaths among under-fives worldwide and which in most cases is totally preventable through WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene), oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements. However, healthcare services are not always available. Most of these deaths occur in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
2.6 million children worldwide were born with HIV/AIDS, mainly due to lack of access to prevention care and treatment; in Sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls are becoming infected at a rate of two and a half times more than boys of the same age, many through being raped.
Children's rights are not universally implemented and children continue to fall victim to violence, child labor, trafficking, sexual exploitation, torture, murder, female genital mutilation, child marriage. Conclusion: at birth, children are not protected. Many instances of these abuses are not reported so the scale is still unknown.
One in four children is not registered at birth, meaning that until a proper registration is completed, if ever, then the child is anonymous and remains outside any protection schemes. As for the food we are feeding our children, see the photo. No comment.
Next, education. The Sustainable Development Goal is to provide free, universal and quality primary education to all by 2030. But what use is primary education these days when confronted with the work market? There are currently 63 million 12-to-15-year-olds out of any form of schooling and after primary level, in a growing number of cases, quality secondary education means paid secondary education, otherwise they come out of secondary school still unable to read, write or count, more so in the case of higher education, which has become a business and in which free University-level education has simply ceased to exist in most countries.
So we may conclude that each and every child does not have the same birthrights. The situation was far better back in the 1980s, when the social model exported by the Soviet Union to developing countries freed from the yoke of imperialist tyranny set up public services systems which indeed provided quality and free healthcare and education programs at all levels.
Today we have gone back to the nineteenth century and we dance in tandem to the words of Mrs. Cecil Alexander's Hymn for Children, All things bright and beautiful:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy we bequeath to our children in 2016. There is no universal policy, it does not exist. Far more is spent on weapons than on development and education. The fate of our children depends on which side of a stupid invisible line, called a "frontier", they are born on, which dictates whether they have access to equal opportunities, it depends on which gender they are born with, which color they are, which creed they adopt, which ethnic group they belong to, it depends on whether their parents are responsible or not. This, born into a world we are polluting, from the air to the land to the seas, and in which fewer and fewer living creatures manage to survive year after year.
The more one researches such articles, the more utterly disgusted and revolted one becomes to be living on this filthy, horrific hell-hole humankind has made of what was supposed to be our beautiful collective home.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.
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