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Cities are Failing Children, UNICEF Warns

Press Release – UNICEF NZ

UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund) Media Release Embargoed until Wednesday, February 29, 2012 Cities are Failing Children, UNICEF Warns UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)
Media Release
Embargoed until Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Cities are Failing Children, UNICEF Warns

The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World

Greater urbanisation is inevitable and soon – for the first time in history – the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than in rural areas, with many virtually invisible and excluded from vital services, according to a new UNICEF report launched today (UN Children’s Fund) The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World.

Children born in cities already account for 60 per cent of the increase in the world’s urban population. The trend for urbanisation is mirrored in New Zealand with 86% of the population living in urban areas and super cities beginning to emerge – Auckland is already home to 300,000 children.

For hundreds of millions of children in developing countries urbanization means being excluded from vital services. Today, an increasing number of children living in slums and shantytowns are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world, deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive.

Cities offer many children the advantages of urban schools, clinics and playgrounds. Yet the same cities the world over are also the settings for some of the greatest disparities in children’s health, education and opportunities. Infrastructure and services are not keeping up with urban growth in many regions and children’s basic needs are not being met. Families living in poverty often pay more for substandard services.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF New Zealand, said, “The reality is that urbanisation is impacting children in every country across the world and we cannot ignore the implications of this.

“In New Zealand urbanisation does not present some of the issues affecting the developing world, but nevertheless there are still visible socio economic disparities in our cities, such as inferior housing and a lack of access to services.

“The move from rural to urban brings benefits as well as challenges, as recognized in Auckland’s 30 year plan. As a smaller country New Zealand has the opportunity to look at what has proven successful in other cities around the world and to consider the problems encountered by others. We can learn from that in planning for all our cities, but those lessons learnt are especially prudent for Auckland and the rebuild of Christchurch.”
Making cities fit for children

A focus on equity is crucial – one in which priority is given to the most disadvantaged children wherever they live. UNICEF urges governments to put children at the heart of urban planning and to extend and improve services for all.

At the global level, UNICEF and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) have worked together for 15 years on the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative building partnerships to put children at the centre of the urban agenda and to provide services and create protected areas so children can have the safer and healthier childhoods they deserve.

McKinlay added, “In New Zealand, cities such as Whangarei and Auckland are already looking closely at the Child-Friendly Cities model in terms of future planning and Christchurch is another city that has the opportunity to involve its youngest citizens in shaping its rebuild.

“Children are a crucial aspect of urban development. All too often they are ignored in the planning process. We need to recognize that young people are shaped by the environments they grow up in and we need to hear their voices as active decision makers.”

In the developing world there is more work to be done. To start, more focused, accurate data are needed to help identify disparities among children in urban areas and how to bridge them. The shortage of such data is evidence of the neglect of these issues. While governments at all levels can do more, community-based action is also a key to success.

The report calls for greater recognition of community-based efforts to tackle urban poverty and gives examples of effective partnerships with the urban poor, including children and adolescents. These partnerships yield tangible results, such as better public infrastructure in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil; higher literacy rates in Cotacachi, Ecuador; and stronger disaster preparedness in Manila, Philippines. In Nairobi, Kenya, adolescents mapped their slum community to provide information to urban planners.

McKinlay said, “Urbanisation is a fact of life, but with careful consideration and involvement of our younger citizens, our cities can develop economically and socially into areas that our children can be proud to live in for generations to come.”
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Notes to editors:

Interactive infographic (showing individual countries’ projected population growth), full report, images and video content available from:

UNICEF is on the ground in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.

The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.

UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

Every $1 donated to us is worth at least $10 in the field thanks to the way we work in partnership with governments, local NGOs and other partners –
About UN-Habitat
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, is the United Nations agency for human settlements. It is mandated by the UN General Assembly to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all. For more information about Habitat and its work visit:
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