February 20, 2020 6:30:21 pm
No country in the world has been taking adequate measures to ensure they protect the future of their children, a report released February 19 by a commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts from around the world, has concluded. Convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and The Lancet, the commission’s report — A Future for the World’s Children? — finds that the health and the future of every child and adolescent in the world is under immediate threat of “climate change, ecological degradation, and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco at children”.
According to the report, while poorer countries need to do a lot more to safeguard their children’s lives, carbon emissions from wealthier countries threaten the future of every child in the world. The report says that if global warming exceeds 4°C by the year 2100, it would lead to rising ocean levels, spread of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, malnutrition, and other devastating health consequences for children.
The report also includes a global index of 180 countries, which suggests that while the children in Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the Netherlands have the best chance at survival, odds are against children in Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, Niger and Mali. Throwing light on the carbon emissions, the report reveals that the United States of America (USA), Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters. In fact, the only countries that are on track to beat the carbon emissions per capita targets by 2030 — while also performing decently on child flourishing measures — are Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.
Harmful commercial marketing
The report also says that children are exposed to many advertisements, some of which contain harmful messaging. Children in some countries see as many as 30,000 advertisements on television alone in a single year, it says.
In fact, children’s exposure to commercial marketing of junk food and sugary beverages is linked to the purchase of these foods and, consequently, to childhood obesity. If numbers are anything to go by, the number of obese children and adolescents has increased from 11 million in the year 1975, to 124 million in 2016.
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To protect children, the commission calls for a new global movement, which entails: stopping carbon emissions with the utmost urgency, placing children and adolescents at the centre of efforts to achieve sustainable development, new policies and investments in all sectors, to work towards child health and rights, incorporating children’s voice into policy decisions, and tightening national regulation of harmful commercial marketing.
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