World

Hundreds of millions of children suffering, UN says

The United Nations sounded the alarm Wednesday about the plight of hundreds of millions of children around the globe who suffer from discrimination and exploitation.

The United Nations sounded the alarm Wednesday about the plight of hundreds of millions of children around the globe who suffer from discrimination and exploitation.

UNICEF says these children are living without access to essential services and protection.

"The children who are hardest to reach include those living in the poorest countries and most deprived communities," UNICEF says.

"It is these children – alone and defenceless – who are being ignored."

A report released Wednesday, entitled The State of the World's Children 2006, says millions of children every year end up disappearing.

Many, it says, end up forced into work as sex-trade workers or domestic labour.

"Nearly two million children are used in the commercial sex trade, where they routinely face sexual and physical violence," the report says.

As well, "a vast but unknown number of children are exploited as domestic servants in private homes."

Another massive problem is identity.

The births of many of the world's children – up to 50 million – are never registered, the UN notes. As a result, many end up either forgotten or invisible.

And, the report says, in many parts of the world children face "discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability or membership of an indigenous group."

Caught in armed conflicts

As well, other children get "caught up in armed conflict or affected by HIV/AIDS" while others are not treated as children at all.

The report also mentions the children who become casualties in war zones.

"Children who are caught in armed conflict, for example, are routinely subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence," the report says.

Still, the UN says that even though some parts of the world have fallen behind in dealing with the plight of children, there is hope.

Goals can be met, it says.

UNICEF says a list of what's needed includes:

  • A push to boost access to essential services for those children and their families.
  • More initiatives with a human rights-based approach.
  • Deeper approaches with greater attention to the most vulnerable.

"Those who harm children rob them of opportunities to grow up safe, healthy and with dignity," UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman said Wednesday.

"To ensure that children are protected, the abuse and exploitation of children must be brought to light and those who violate children brought to justice."

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