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December 19, 2005

Excluded Children Is Focus of 2006 UNICEF Report

The focus of the UNICEF 2006 State of the World’s Children’s Report is children who slip through the cracks of other, well-intentioned international efforts. This excluded and invisible category includes children who are victims of abuse, exploitation and discrimination and those who suffer exclusion from education, health care and other services. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was one of the four locations worldwide to reveal the report, entitled “Excluded and Invisible,” on December 14. It is available at www.unicef.org.

During her presentation, Christine Sarbanes, director of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Mid-Atlantic Region, noted that UNICEF is making gains in its campaign to positively impact children’s rights, but their efforts have been slowed by poverty, armed conflict and HIV/AIDS. She said, “[As a result,] a billion children are being robbed of their childhood.”

The report states, “Millions of children are invisible to the world because their plight is hidden, underreported or openly neglected. Children who are most likely to become invisible have no formal identity, grow up without the loving care of parents or family, are pressed too early into adult responsibilities and exploited for profit.”

The report also proposes that “all levels of society—from families and governments to teachers and the media—have a part to play individually and collectively to prevent abuse and to ensure that children are not made invisible or forgotten.”

Rudolph Knippenberg, MD, DrPH ’86, MPH ’81, UNICEF health policy and systems principle advisor, discussed child mortality. He explained that the rate of child deaths under age five has not decreased. The children and their families have poor access to health care and the existing health care facilities don’t have adequate supplies. He said that the various ministries of health need to work all at once with non-governmental agencies on a global, national and community-wide scale, as well as with individuals, to combat childhood death.

Andrea Rossi, UNICEF child trafficking and migration expert, discussed the plight of children who are trafficked or moved from place to place, often against their will. He said that although the issue is currently being covered by U.S. media, it has been a problem for many years and will still be a problem once it has fallen out of the limelight.

Rossi explained that this clandestine population is hard to pin down because some are exploited as child laborers or sex workers. Others are offered in illicit adoptions and early marriages or recruited as child soldiers. Some children are sold and some move from place to place after a natural disaster or military conflict. “[Each scenario] is completely different in terms of causes and interventions. It’s not easy to focus on just one cause. You can’t target the ‘crime of child trafficking;’ you need to change or implement laws on prostitution, labor and immigration,” said Rossi. He further explained that when dealing with this highly complex situation, there is a need for sound data and rigorous analysis, which do not currently exist.

Protecting children is essential to helping them develop to their fullest potential; therefore, every nation must realize that making this effort is essential to human and economic development, according to the report.—Kenna L. Lowe

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.