The future of every single child in the world is at risk as nations across the world fail to curb the effects of climate change and provide a clean and healthy environment essential for their well-being, according to a report commissioned by the United Nations.
“Climate change, ecological degradation, migrating populations, conflict, pervasive inequalities, and predatory commercial practices threaten the health and future of children in every country,” the report, authored by more than 40 child and adolescent health experts, said.
While the children in wealthy nations have a better chance at survival and well-being, those same countries disproportionately contribute to the carbon emissions threatening the future of all children, the joint report by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and medical journal The Lancet found.
It further added that not a single country performed well in all three categories measured: child flourishing, sustainability, and equity.
“Countries need to overhaul their approach to child and adolescent health, to ensure that we not only look after our children today but protect the world they will inherit in the future,” said New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is now the co-chair of the international commission that produced the report.
Exploitative marketing practices
The report also highlighted the threats to children posed by the commercial sector. Exposure to marketing and advertisements of junk food, and fat- and sugar-laden foods are linked to obesity among children.
The number of obese children and adolescents increased tenfold from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million by 2016, the authors noted.
Children are also exposed to advertisements of products meant for adults — such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling — boosting their chances of consumption.
Children at the heart of Sustainable Development Goals
The report calls for children to be placed at the center of the efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals agreed in 2015.
“The SDGs convey a dual vision: to protect our planet from a dangerous and uncertain future and to ensure that we deliver secure, fair, and healthy lives for future generations. Children are at the heart of this vision, with their own needs, rights, perspectives, and contributions,” it said.