Growing threats to child safety

No child should have to worry about his or her safety and welfare. Unfortunately, millions of children around the world are at risk for violence, abuse, and exploitation. There are several threats to the safety of children, most of which are interconnected. Read on to learn about these specific issues, how they are related to one another, and how they might be alleviated.

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Masters of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management.

Extreme Poverty 

Children compose almost 50% of the 900 million people living on less than $1.90 per day. The most predictable result of poverty is malnutrition. Even people who are able to buy a large enough quantity of food may not have access to high quality, nutritious foods. Because specific nutrients are necessary to bolster immunity and keep bodies strong, malnutrition inevitably leads to health complications. Unfortunately, people living in extreme poverty often have little to no access to healthcare. One woman in every thirty-six dies pregnancy-related issues. The life expectancy in poor countries is 30 years less than that of wealthier nations.

Subpar nutrition alone is responsible for the deaths of 45% of children under 5 years of age.

While the problem of poverty cannot be solved overnight, measures can be taken to promote good health among poor populations. Community health workers and volunteers can provide free or low-cost services like check-ups, vaccine administrations, and education about preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Type II diabetes. Food donation efforts can prioritize quality over quantity when possible.

Lack of Access to Quality Education 

Along with living in poverty, being raised by an uneducated mother is an indicator of future criminal activity. Uneducated mothers were once young girls who might not have had the opportunity to go to school. 124 million children and teenagers do not attend any type of school. 75 million of those children are denied access because of violent conflicts, natural disasters, and health epidemics in their countries.

Even children who are able to attend school may not get sufficient education; for every one teacher in sub-Saharan Africa, there are forty students. On a global scale, 40% of children who leave primary school do not learn to read, write, or perform basic math functions. It is difficult to imagine living with illiteracy, but this is quite common in poor countries, and it begins with a lack of proper schooling childhood.

Improving education decreases both the poverty and the child mortality rates of a country. People who are educated can find jobs with better pay. Mortality rates in particular decrease by 15% if women complete primary school, and 49% if women receive secondary education. These figures reflect a quote from Karen DeCrow: “…where girls are educated, the economy and standard of living rise.”

Children with Refugee and Migrant Status 

Refugee and migrant children face specific issues of their own. When children move to safer countries, often as they seek asylum, they are exposed to potential kidnappings. Each year, 1.2 million children are trafficked, illegally moved to serve the will of the offender(s). Many of those children, 168 million 5- to 17-year-olds to be exact, are forced to become slaves, soldiers, sex workers, and drug traffickers. 28 million children have been forcibly removed from their homes because of violence and insecurity, and another 250 million were coerced into marriages before they were 15 years old.

Stronger child protection policies are crucial to fighting child trafficking. Giving children legal status and ending the practice of detaining child refugees could reduce the rate of abductions. Keeping family members together results in a much lower risk of losing a child to captors.

Individuals can learn about their “slavery footprints;” the United States Department of Labor has an online list of goods produced by child labor and forced labor. Being informed about these products allows consumers to choose to avoid them. Boycotting products is highly effective because customers essentially vote with their dollars.

Areas of Armed Conflict 

There are several safety concerns for children who live near war zones. Children often view explosive weapons as toys, and their lack of fear of these devices leads to many casualties. Explosives also limit children’s access to safe places like schools, churches, and play areas, as well as the availability of water. Many children, some as young as 8 years old, join armed groups against their wills, or to escape poverty or defend their communities. Young girls are frequently recruited as sexual slaves or child wives.

Disarmament and de-mining programs could make these areas safer for children and their families. Additionally, victim assistance programs can help rehabilitate victims of violence. Humanitarian organizations, like UNICEF and the United Nations, could address the political, social, and economic factors that lead children to join armed forces. These institutions could also campaign to rescue children already in military groups and return them to their homes.

Fighting One Threat to Fight Them All 

Many of the threats to child safety are inseparably linked, which may be the key to solving these daunting issues. Disarmament and de-mining can make schools safe for children to attend. Severe poverty and poor health can both be improved by investing in education. Lower mortality rates can keep families alive and together, with each member available to protect and nurture the others. Reducing any one of these threats to child safety is highly likely to lessen at least one other.

The most important risk factor to tackle seems to be the lack of access to quality education. People who are feeling generous might consider donating money or supplies to programs and organizations that work to educate children in impoverished areas. Concerned citizens could urge their politicians to push legislature that promotes education, especially in underdeveloped or war torn countries.

Although these threats are growing, there is hope. The first step to resolving these problems is gaining knowledge about them. Individuals should share this information with others and strive to eradicate threats to child safety. Through enlightenment and effort, it is possible to create a world in which children only need to focus on one thing: living happily.

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