On World Children's Day: Many Middle East Kids are Crippled by Abuse, Poverty, and War

Published November 20th, 2017 - 12:19 GMT
One of the worst countries on earth for children is war-torn Yemen (AFP)
One of the worst countries on earth for children is war-torn Yemen (AFP)
  • As the world marks World Children's Day, many kids in the Middle East are facing abuse, poverty and death
  • Conflict, lack of access to education and high levels of poverty are among the key factors crippling children in the region
  • War-torn Yemen is one of the worst countries to be a child with 150,000 children facing death within months from malnutrition
  • Child marriage affects many with one in five kids in the MENA region married off before the age of 18

As we mark World Children’s Day, the Middle East is among the worst places on the planet for children with many youngsters facing poverty, abuse, and even death.

While many countries in the region are difficult locations for children, those struck by conflict are among the worst.
Violent deaths among children below the age of 19 have increased Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen according to a report released today by UNICEF.

The same report found that around 180 million children in 37 countries are more likely to live in extreme poverty, lack education or suffer a violent death than two decades ago.

"While the last generation has seen vast, unprecedented gains in living standards for most of the world's children, the fact that a forgotten minority of children have been excluded from this - through no fault of their own or those of their families - is a travesty," said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF director of data, research and policy.

One of the worst countries on earth for children is war-torn Yemen, which is currently experiencing a brutal bombing campaign at the hands of Saudi Arabia.

The ongoing Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen has blocked desperately needed humanitarian aid to the country.

Last week, the U.N. warned that around  400,000 children are suffering from severe and acute malnutrition in the country.

About 150,000 malnourished children could die within months if left untreated, the organization added in a statement.

Currently, aid organizations claim that a child dies every 10 minutes in the war-torn country and around 10 million kids are in need of urgent help.

Most deaths preventable causes like diarrhea, breathing infections and malnutrition.

Meanwhile, many children are also at risk of cholera, measles, and polio as aid workers struggle to provide vaccinations.

“In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future,” said Dr. Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen in a statement earlier this year.

Sadly, children in many other countries across the MENA region are suffering every day.

A report, published earlier this year by UNICEF found that one in four kids lives in poverty across the MENA region - with at least 29 million children affected by severe poverty here.

The study found that almost half of kids here live in overcrowded or inadequate housing, with a third living in homes without running water.

A fifth are forced to walk more than 30 minutes to fetch water or use unsafe drinking water.

Meanwhile, education is another key stumbling block for youngsters in the region.

Children who live in households that are headed by an uneducated family member are twice as likely to live in poverty.

Around 25% of kids in the region are not enrolled in school or have fallen two grades behind, according to the study.

Only 27 percent of children ages 3-5 enrolled in pre-school, almost half the world average, according to a similar probe by the World Bank.

The same study found that one in 40 children in the MENA region die before they reach the age of one, mostly from preventable causes.

Nutrition is another factor affecting the youngest in the region.
A fifth of the youngest children are stunted from malnutrition and many are missing out on vital nutrients.

The study on Early Child Development, released in late 2015, also found vast inequality for children across the region with kids from the richest homes having a 97% chance of attending early childhood care and education, while a child from the poorest homes has only a 4% chance.

“Child poverty is about so much more than family income – it’s about access to quality education, healthcare, a home and safe water. When children are deprived of the basics, they are at risk of getting trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), at a regional conference on child poverty held in Rabat, Morocco in May.

Child Marriage is another issue affecting children in the Middle East and North Africa with one in five youngsters married off before the age of 18, according to UNICEF.

A shocking 3% are married before the age of 15, according to the organization.
 A current draft law tabled by conservative Iraqi politicians could see the legal age for marriage in the country lowered to just nine-years-old if passed.

Unsurprisingly, the motion has drawn anger from rights activists across the spectrum.

However, whether the law will be enacted remains to be seen.

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