In need of a leg-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am


Unicef urges governments to put children at the heart of urban planning as the young population in cities continues to swell.

In its report The State of the World's Children 2012: Children in an Urban World, the UN agency says hundreds of millions of children around the world have no access to vital services like clean water, sanitation and education. Some 115 million children worldwide work in dangerous or exploitative jobs.

Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, says that poverty and rural areas are traditionally linked, but children in urban settings may in fact be worse off.

'Today an increasing number of children living in slums and shantytowns are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world, deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive,' Lake said.

The report points out that 27.3 million children on the mainland - a 10th of the country's child population - have migrated with their families to cities to escape from poverty.

Many rural children face great challenges in cities. They often become victims of road accidents as they are not used to traffic.

Meanwhile, in 2008, some 55 million mainland children were left behind in rural areas in the care of relatives. Such children can suffer from physical, educational and psychological distress.

Unicef is funding special life-skills programmes to help migrant children adapt to urban life.

Irene Chan, Unicef Hong Kong's chief executive, says the government should improve social services for marginalised children.

'By doing so, we would promote a child-friendly city, helping children reach their full potential,' Chan said.

'Society will benefit from better-educated and healthy children.'