Break cy­cle of poverty by putting chil­dren first

In­vest­ment in chil­dren en­sures the best re­turns. ... No strat­egy is more ef­fec­tive than to give ev­ery child a fair start in life.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

The very heart of the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals is to end poverty in all forms ev­ery­where by 2030. To do this we must break the in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cy­cle of poverty by putting chil­dren first. Not only be­cause it’s legally and morally the right thing to do, but also be­cause it makes eco­nomic and so­cial sense.

Chil­dren are more likely to be poor. Whether us­ing the ex­treme poverty line or theMul­tidi­men­sional Poverty In­dex, chil­dren are more likely to live in poverty than other groups. Ac­cord­ing to China’s sixth na­tional pop­u­la­tion cen­sus in 2010, the num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing in poverty-stricken ar­eas is es­ti­mated to be 70 mil­lion, ac­count­ing for about 25 per­cent of the child pop­u­la­tion na­tion­wide. The mor­tal­ity of chil­dren liv­ing in the poor­est coun­ties at each age is higher than the na­tional av­er­age by 50 per­cent or more. About 5 per­cent of chil­dren in poverty-stricken ar­eas do not com­plete com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion. Only 64 per­cent of chil­dren live with both par­ents.

Poverty goes be­yond eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors. While in­ad­e­quate house­hold in­come is a sig­nif­i­cant driver of child poverty, poverty is about the set of de­pri­va­tions that boys and girls ex­pe­ri­ence across dif­fer­ent as­pects of their lives. These de­pri­va­tions oc­cur for chil­dren liv­ing within and out­side des­ig­nated in­come poor house­holds, in ru­ral ar­eas and in cities, and in­clude, hunger, lack of lov­ing care, ex­po­sure to vi­o­lence or abuse, so­cial dis­crim­i­na­tion and ex­clu­sion, and poor ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices like ed­u­ca­tion, water and san­i­ta­tion.

Chil­dren suf­fer from the ef­fects of poverty more than adults be­cause even short pe­ri­ods spent in poverty in child­hood can have ir­re­versible ef­fects on a child’s phys­i­cal, cog­ni­tive and so­cial devel­op­ment. Poverty sets chil­dren on a life-long path of low ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment and re­duced pro­duc­tiv­ity, and un­der­mines their phys­i­cal and men­tal health. Chil­dren who grow up in poverty are more likely to be­come poor adults and have poor chil­dren, cre­at­ing and sus­tain­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cy­cles of poverty.

While the largest costs are born by chil­dren them­selves, so­ci­ety also pays a high price through loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity, un­tapped po­ten­tial and the costs of re­spond­ing to chronic poverty.

We con­grat­u­late the govern­ment for its con­tin­ued progress on poverty and for keep­ing poverty high on na­tional and global agen­das. The govern­ment has in place many plans to ben­e­fit chil­dren; poor chil­dren, chil­dren who have been left be­hind, or­phans, and chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties.

To en­sure these plans reach ev­ery girl and boy with the ser­vices they need at the right time, they re­quire good ev­i­dence. The child poverty anal­y­sis that the State Coun­cil Lead­ing Group Of­fice of Poverty Al­le­vi­a­tion and Devel­op­ment and UNICEF con­ducted in­Hubei prov­ince in 2015, ex­am­ined the driv­ers of child poverty. Ev­i­dence from this anal­y­sis showed pol­i­cy­mak­ers which chil­dren were at great­est risk, the kinds of de­pri­va­tions that they ex­pe­ri­enced, and at which age in­ter­ven­tions must be tai­lored to be most ef­fec­tive. This anal­y­sis was crit­i­cal to de­velop ef­fec­tive and in­te­grated child poverty pro­gram­ming in­Hubei.

De­ci­sion-mak­ers should com­mit to wide­spread use of the child poverty anal­y­sis, which is the ba­sis for ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient multi-sec­tor pro­gram­ming. Na­tional, pro­vin­cial and lo­cal plans and bud­gets for chil­dren need to be fully funded, im­ple­mented and eval­u­ated. Lastly, if poverty is mea­sured na­tion­ally, not only in ru­ral ar­eas, and a mea­sure of child poverty is adopted to iden­tify and track the chil­dren mak­ing the least progress, this would al­low pro­grams to steer in­vest­ments first to the poor­est chil­dren to help them catch up. It will also al­low ro­bust mea­sure­ment to­ward achieve­ment of all the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals, in­clud­ing Goal One, which in­cludes a tar­get to track mul­ti­di­men­sional poverty for chil­dren as a spe­cific group.

Mak­ing the choice to put chil­dren first in na­tional devel­op­ment and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion strate­gies is es­sen­tial. With eco­nomic growth de­cel­er­at­ing, pol­icy choices will be­come harder. In­vest­ment in chil­dren en­sures the best re­turns.

No strat­egy is more ef­fec­tive than to give ev­ery child a fair start in life. UNICEF is a proud part­ner in China and sup­port­sNa­tional ef­forts to re­al­ize child rights and end child poverty for good. The au­thor is UNICEF Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in China.

SONG CHEN / CHINA DAILY

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