Children are the future and it is the responsibility of adults to protect them and ensure that they get the best footing in life. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in many nations around the world – including our own! This list looks at ten of the worst situations that children today are forced to face. It is hard to believe that these situations still occur, but learning about them is a good way to start trying to help.
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Violence through Indoctrination
Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews, to glorify “jihad” (holy war), violence, death and child martyrdom almost from birth, as an essential part of their culture and destiny. As captured on an Israeli video documentary produced in 1998, a “Sesame Street”-like children’s program called the “Children’s Club” — complete with puppet shows, songs, Mickey Mouse and other characters — focused on inculcating intense hatred of Jews and a passion for engaging in and celebrating violence against them in a perpetual “jihad” until the day the Israeli flags come down from above “Palestinian land” and the Palestinian flag is raised.
In Madrasas, Islamic schools for the study of pure Islamic religion, the culprits are the religious teachers; and the victims include helpless innocent underage students. The sacred teacher-student relationship is given a new definition in these Islamic schools. Following is the bitter experience of a 12 years old madrasa student from Kenya who was rescued during January 2003.
“It was a terrible place, they chain both legs and both arms, sometimes hands and feet together, They beat us at lunchtime, dinner time and grab both legs and hands and give us lashes on the buttocks. We sleep in chains, eat-in chains, and go to the toilets in chains. Sometimes we are hooked on the roof in chains and left hanging. We have to memorize the Koran and get punished if we cannot recite the Koran in the classroom”.
According to UNICEF, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation. Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water. Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhea. For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3), 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5) and 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7). 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece, and Italy.) 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized. Millions of parents in developing countries must daily cope with the fact that their children may not survive the first critical years of life; in many cases, the diseases that threaten their children’s lives are preventable.
Life as Refugees
Of the 50 million refugees and displaced people in the world, approximately half are children. War is the primary factor in the creation of child refugees. It is also a principal cause of child death, injury, and loss of parents. In the last decade, war has killed more than 2 million children, wounded another 6 million, and orphaned about 1 million. Children also flee their homes because they fear various forms of abuse such as rape, sexual slavery, and child labor. Circumstances of birth also play a role in depriving children of a legal home. Each year 40 million children are not registered at birth, depriving them of nationality and a legal name.
The combined ravages of AIDS and war have created a large pool of orphan refugees and displaced children, particularly in Africa. The toll of Rwanda’s civil war, for example, left orphan children to head some 45,000 Rwandan households, with 90 percent of these headed by girls. “Separated Children” are those under age 18 and living outside their country of origin without parents or legal guardians to care for or protect them. Every year, about 20,000 separated children apply for asylum in Europe and North America. Overall, children account for approximately half of all individuals seeking legal asylum in developed countries. Separated children are not often legally recognized as refugees in western countries. In Europe, for example, where there may be as many as 50,000 separated children at any given time, only an estimated 1-5 percent of those who apply for asylum are granted refugee status.
Lack of Access to Education
More than 100 million children do not have access to school. Of the children who enroll in primary school, over 150 million drop out, while user fees, including levies, are still charged for access to education in 92 countries and that such charges have an impact on excluding girls. 77 million children worldwide are not able to go to school due to a lack of funds. For socially disadvantaged segments of the population like poor inhabitants of cities, AIDS orphans and the physically challenged, any access to education is often particularly difficult to obtain. The consequence of this lack of access to education is that 15 percent of those adolescents between 15 and 24 in third world countries are illiterate.
Location often contributes to a child’s lack of access and attendance to education. In certain areas of the world, it is more difficult for children to get to school. For example, in high-altitude areas of India, severe weather conditions for more than 7 months of the year make school attendance erratic and force children to remain at home. Gender also contributes to a child’s lack of access and attendance to education. In 25 countries the proportion of boys enrolling in secondary school is higher than girls by 10% or more, and in five; India, Nepal, Togo, Turkey and Yemen, the gap exceeds 20%. The worst disparity is found in South Asia, where 52% of boys and only 33% of girls enroll; a gap of 10%. Enrollment is low for both boys and girls in sub-Saharan Africa, with rates of just 27% and 22%. Girls trail respectively behind. It is generally believed that girls are often discouraged from attending primary schooling, especially in less developed countries for religious and cultural reasons.
Neglect is an act of omission, or the absence of action. While the consequences of child neglect can be devastating, it leaves no visible marks. Moreover, it usually involves infants and very young children who cannot speak for themselves. James M. Gaudin Jr., in “Child Neglect: Short-Term and Long-Term Outcomes”, reported that, compared with non-maltreated and abused children, neglected children have the worst delays in language comprehension and expression. Psychologically neglected children also score lowest in IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests.
Emotional neglect, in its most serious form, can result in the “non-organic failure to thrive syndrome,” a condition in which a child fails to develop physically or even to survive. According to Gaudin, studies have found that, even with aggressive intervention, the neglected child continues to deteriorate. The cooperation of the neglectful parents, which is crucial to the intervention, usually declines as the child’s condition worsens. This shows that it is sometimes not that easy to change the parental attributes that have contributed to the neglect in the first place.
Parental neglectful behaviors include not keeping the child clean, not providing enough clothes for keeping warm, not making sure the child attended school, not caring if the child got into trouble in school, not helping with homework, not helping the child do his best, not providing comfort when the child was upset, and not helping when the child had problems. The prevalence of childhood neglect ranged from 3.2% in New Hampshire, United States, to 10% in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 19.4% in Singapore, and 36.4% in Pusan, Korea.