UNICEF: “Epicenter” of Poverty Shifting to Cities

29/02/2012 – This year, UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report is focusing on children living in urban areas. Slum-dwelling children are some of the world’s most invisible.

Slum children may be some of the world’s most invisible. According to a new report by the United Nations (UN), aggregated data on children in cities obscures the number living in slums.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released its flagship publication, State of the World's Children 2012, yesterday. This year’s report is titled, Children in an Urban World.

According to the report, more than half of the world’s seven billion strong population lives in cities, as individuals and families have migrated from rural areas.

"They are often invisible to decision makers and lost in hazy world of statistical averages that conceal grave inequities,” said UNICEF Bangladesh’s Pascal Villeneuve at the launch of the report.

UNICEF’s report showed that over half the world's seven billion people now live in cities. Like poor populations living in the countryside, slum dwellers lack access to water, electricity and health care facilities.

“When we think of poverty, the image that traditionally comes to mind is that of a child in a rural village,’’ said UNICEF’s Executive-Director Anthony Lake in a press statement. “But 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.’’

"There is growing evidence that the epicentre of poverty and under-nutrition among children is gradually shifting from rural to urban areas," said David Morley, the head of UNICEF Canada. “We think there should be a shift in how some foreign aid is considered—that more should go to cities,” he told CBC news.

The rights of children are systematically denied in slum areas. More than a third are never issued birth certificates, though birth registration is a right enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention is the foremost children’s rights document in the world.

In Africa and Asia specifically, half of urban-dwelling children aren’t issued birth certificates. Without birth certificates, it could be said they don’t officially exist in the eyes of the state. Invisible to authorities, slum children have difficulty accessing essential social protection programmes.

Latin American countries have taken steps to change the denial of children’s rights and create safer, fairer cities. Long-term urban consultations with local government in Ciudad Guayana in Venezuela, for example, have led to expanded birth registration programmes.

“Every disadvantaged child bears witness to a moral offense: the failure to secure her or his rights to survive, thrive and participate in society,” wrote Mr. Lake in the forward to the report.