The health and future of the world’s children are at risk and no country is protecting them

“This must be a wake up call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children.”

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A new study found that children around the world are at risk from the ecological and climate crises along with commercial pressures. The health and future of the children of the world is being threatened and not one country is doing it’s part to protect them, the report concluded.

Titled, A Future for the World’s Children?, the report was published in the The Lancet, and was comprised of the work of more than 40-expert commission convened by The Lancet, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), according to EcoWatch. The report found that “the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children,” a press release stated.

“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today, but protect the world they will inherit in the future,” Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and co-chair of the Commission, said.

The report rated the “performance on child flourishing” of 180 countries measuring child survival and well-being—including health, education and nutrition—and sustainability, a press release stated. The report found that in both developed and under-developed countries excess carbon emissions threatened children worldwide. Taking per capita CO2 emissions into account, the report found all the 180 countries trailed behind, but Norway, the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands ranked the best with the United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia ranking the worst.

The countries “on track to beat CO2 emissions per capita targets by 2030” that performed fairly on child flourishing include Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Viet Nam, the press release stated.

Commercial pressures threatening children worldwide include “harmful commercial marketing” that exposes them to unhealthy food and drinks, tobacco and alcohol. According to a press release, child obesity increased 11-fold; from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016.

“Industry self-regulation has failed,” Anthony Costello, a professor and one of the Commission’s authors, said. “Studies in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.S.—among many others—have shown that self-regulation has not hampered commercial ability to advertise to children. For example, despite industry signing up to self-regulation in Australia, children and adolescent viewers were still exposed to 51 million alcohol ads during just one year of televised football, cricket and rugby. And the reality could be much worse still: we have few facts and figures about the huge expansion of social media advertising and algorithms aimed at our children.”

The authors call for immediate action to protect the future of the children and outlined specific recommendations including:

  1. Stop CO2 emissions with the utmost urgency, to ensure children have a future on this planet;
  2. Place children and adolescents at the center of our efforts to achieve sustainable development;
  3. New policies and investment in all sectors to work towards child health and rights;
  4. Incorporate children’s voices into policy decisions;
  5. Tighten national regulation of harmful commercial marketing, supported by a new Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are, too often, failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said. “This must be a wake up call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children.”

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