The world’s survival depends on children being able to flourish, but no country is doing enough to give them a sustainable future, dozens of highly respected international health experts have said.
In a UN-backed report assessing the capacity of 180 countries to ensure that their youngsters can survive and thrive, the authors highlight numerous ‘immediate’ threats to their health, environment, and opportunities.
These include runaway greenhouse gas emissions, predatory advertising and deepening inequality in and among countries.
“No country in the world is currently providing the conditions we need to support every child to grow up and have a healthy future,” said Anthony Costello, Professor of Global Health and Sustainability at University College London, one of the lead authors of the report, commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal.
“Especially, they’re under immediate threat from climate change and from commercial marketing, which has grown hugely in the last decade,” Prof. Costello – former WHO Director of Mother, Child and Adolescent health – said.
“Growing inequality in all countries is also responsible for undermining children’s prospects. This is the case even in wealthy industrialised nations like the United Kingdom, which had ‘very serious issues’ with child poverty and inequality.
“The poorest countries have a long way to go to let their children be healthy, but the wealthy countries are threatening the future of all children through these excessive carbon emissions. We agree with Greta Thunberg when she says our world is on fire,” Costello said.
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and co-chair of the commission Helen Clark lamented that an estimated 250 million children under five in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their development potential.
“But of even greater concern, every child worldwide now faces existential threats from climate change and commercial pressures,” she stressed.