Urbanisation creating opportunities for children

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A new global United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report highlights the challenges that many children face while living in the cities and towns around the world. The UNICEF report titled ‘State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in the Urban World’, notes that already half of all people-including more than one billion children- live in urban areas, with the numbers of urban dwellers are steadily growing. The report points to examples of good practice that can improve urban children’s well-being. 37 per cent of Pakistan’s population lives in urban areas. By 2025, over half of Pakistan’s population will live in cities; nine cities already have more than a million people each living in them.
The transition to a largely urban population and the emergence of mega-urban regions is viewed as an engine of growth in the government’s framework for economic growth. Equitable access to basic social services, including health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and education is constrained by multiple levels of deprivation and exclusion. “The challenge is to proactively address the many dimensions of deprivation by ensuring equity in the provision of basic social services and social protection,” said UNICEF Pakistan Representative Dan Rohrmann.
“While continuing to serve poor rural children, UNICEF Pakistan also is planning to greatly increase the programmes initiated for children in the poorest urban neighbourhoods,” he added. As an example, in 2009, the average number of years of schooling for children was 5.7 years, however the disparity between the poorest 15 per cent of the population and the highest 15 per cent was between 2.41 and 8.95 years across different provinces. Girls living in urban areas in the highest income group received an average of 9.39 years of schooling compared with 1.01 years for rural girls in the lowest income group. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds who live in urban areas face a host of challenges that reduce their chances of achieving their potential in a productive adult work force.
These challenges include low levels of birth registration, inadequate access to sanitation and safe water services, education and health services. The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2012 Report includes examples of good practices from around the world spanning service delivery, social protection, safe and inclusive environments for children in urban areas.
It also outlines key steps for an equitable development approach for reaching the poorest children in urban areas. At the global level, UNICEF and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) have worked together for 15 years on the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative, building partnerships with governments and civil society to put children at the centre of the urban agenda and to provide services and create protected areas so that children can have the safer and healthier childhoods they deserve. In Pakistan, UN-Habitat and UNICEF have also been working together to scale up sanitation for the poorest families.