22 February, 2007

left behind

Caitlin G. Johnson:
UNICEF is best known for its work on behalf of children in the developing world, but its latest report turns an eye to the well-being of children in 21 wealthy nations including the United States, which ranks second to the bottom overall.

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Center Report Card, "Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries," looks at six dimensions of child well-being: material well-being, health and safety, educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people's own perceptions of their well-being.

"[Child well-being] is a bell weather for where we'll end up in the global market 20 years from now--more than, say, how we're spending our money in other areas, and what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. It impacts our global security," says Laura Beavers, research associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which sponsors the Kids Count project to track child well-being in each U.S. state.

. . . the United States fared particularly poorly. It ranked last in health and safety, primarily because of high rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, and deaths from accidents and injuries. The United States also showed significantly higher rates of obesity and overweight teenagers, and even the teen birth rate--which has declined dramatically in the past decade--remains higher than in other rich countries.
. . .

America's childhood obesity epidemic, increasing child poverty rates, and an average on-time high school graduation rate of only 70 percent (and as low as 50 percent in at least 11 urban areas) continue to drive down overall child well-being.

"If we had our resources directed in the right way, we wouldn't be where we are. We have the resources to do it, but we haven't had the political will to do it, especially over the last five years," says the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Laura Beavers.
. . .

The United States is one of two countries that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that protects children's rights and access to services and under whose mandate the new study was produced. Somalia is the other country that has not ratified the treaty.

Largest most expensive military on the planet. Period.


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