A fresh start for Filipino children this 2021
As we look back on the challenges that 2020 brought us, we at Unicef look to the many children of the Philippines who give us many reasons to hope and to celebrate every day. In November last year as we commemorated World Children’s Day, children shared their thoughts and dreams. Arianne, a university student, said that we “all need a glimmer of hope that one day, the world we live in will, little by little, learn, listen, and love.”
The Philippines has gone a long way in fulfilling the rights of Filipino children. Enactment of important legislation, improvement of children’s services, and more accessible venues for children’s participation are some of the milestones that have advanced children’s health and well-being in the country. Together with government action, whole barangays, an engaged civil society, and corporations with child-friendly business practices are increasingly coming together to help children grow into their full potential.
But all our efforts are now threatened with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments around the world navigate the consequences of the economic fallout, another crisis looms in the distance: an entire lost generation of children. Globally, the number of children living in multidimensional poverty—without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water—is estimated to have soared by 15 percent, or an additional 150 million children by mid-2020. This puts the number of children living in multidimensional poverty to approximately 1.2 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Philippines, a long lockdown kept many children from learning and put them at greater risk of online abuse, mental health issues, and other activities that are important for their physical and emotional growth. While immunization campaigns have continued, polio and measles outbreaks loom.
Progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals is slipping backwards, and children continue to pay the steepest price. Without coordinated action to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the effects of the pandemic, the consequences for children now, and for the future of our shared humanity, will be severe.
Unicef proposes a practical and concrete six-point plan to reunite the world around a common cause: the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Along with children and young people, decision-makers must start to listen and work together, because it is they who will live with the impact of these humanitarian crises for decades to come.
Unicef calls for global action to: 1) Ensure that all children learn, including by closing the digital divide; 2) guarantee access to nutrition and health services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child; 3) support and protect the mental health of children and young people and bring an end to abuse, gender-based violence, and neglect in childhood; 4) increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene and address environmental degradation and climate change; 5) reverse the rise in child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery for all; 6) redouble efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflict, disaster, and displacement.
Unicef is committed to support the Philippine government by contextualizing the Six-Point Plan to existing and emerging issues that Filipino children face. We have already come a long way in promoting and protecting children’s rights to survival, development, protection, and participation.
Protecting the investments and the hard work we have done for the children of the Philippines will be difficult, but we at Unicef believe that together, we can do much more. This is not about a return to the way things were. Children will never accept a return to “normal” after the pandemic, because “normal” was never good enough. Reimagining a better future for every child is something we can do in our own capacities. Children and young people are willing to take up the challenge. And so should we.
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Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov is Unicef Philippines representative.
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