June 1 is International Children's Day, the day we celebrate our children, our future and the future of our planet. What sort of legacy are we leaving them? Do we remember that what is left to them was left behind by us? Do we forget that future generations will judge us on our legacy, one that is not looking very good? Will we be remembered as the generation that had access to information and did nothing?
International Children's Day has existed for precisely ninety years, since it was proclaimed by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1925. The purpose is to celebrate and remember the planet's children with themes on children's rights, their well-being and other events dedicated to children.
What a start!
And what a start we see from the UNICEF statistics for 2014/2015. Right from the word go, infant nutrition. Fifteen percent of our children are underweight, a quarter have stunted growth due to malnutrition or disease, while eight per cent are wasted through disease, often easily preventable conditions such as diarrhea.
Over six million children die every year before they are five years old, the average life expectancy at birth for West and Central Africa is just 54 years of age, and worldwide the primary school enrolment rate is 91 per cent (73% in West and Central Africa).
Only 35 per cent of children with pneumonia (worldwide) have adequate medication, 18 per cent of newborns do not have any protection against tetanus, oral rehydration salts (ORS) are available for only 36 per cent of children affected by diarrhea and just 18% are treated for malaria.
3.2 million children have HIV/AIDS; 0.3 per cent of young males and 0.4 per cent of young females are already living with HIV/AIDS but only 30 per cent of males and 22 per cent of females have any knowledge of how to get protection. There are 17.7 million AIDS orphans worldwide among 140 million orphans worldwide.
The youth literacy rate for males is 92 per cent, but 87 per cent for young females, so once again we see a gender disparity which is hidden in certain statistics. An average of just 54% of children worldwide have any participation in preschool activities; only 91% of children are enrolled in primary school (92% for males and 90% for females) and among these the actual attendance rate is 83%.
Almost ten percent of our children of primary school age are out of school, working or wandering around the streets. 8 per cent of our children do not survive to the final year of primary school.
Only 64.5 per cent of children worldwide are enrolled in secondary school and of these, 60 per cent of boys attend and 56 per cent of girls - almost half our girls do not attend secondary education.
13 per cent of children are working, 27 per cent of girls are married before they are eighteen years of age, while only 72% of births are registered, meaning a staggering 28% of our children are not, meaning they do not have documentation and are therefore rendered vulnerable to traffickers to sell as sex slaves or victims in snuff videos, to be tortured to death, raped or forced to work for free. Or forced to work for free and be raped every day for the rest of their lives.
Our generation has done a lot, and the statistics today are far better than twenty or fifty years ago - the evolution is visible. But how can we congratulate ourselves when we can place a diaper around a guy we send into space so that he doesn't soil himself when he takes off and live on the same planet which produces statistics such as these?
As usual, your chances are better if you are born a male and the further away from poverty-stricken countries you live, the greater your chances of survival. We can therefore conclude that the animal Homo sapiens sapiens is the most useless of all the species to inhabit the planet because apart from having the weakest young at birth, is collectively incapable of looking after them properly. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy our generations leave and shrugging our shoulders, refusing to hold those we elect to account is not an option.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.
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