UNICEF has released data showing that almost half of South Asia’s total population of children – almost 300 million – are living in poverty. At a conference in Dhaka on Achieving Child Wellbeing and Equity in South Asia, UNICEF urged a closer examiniation of ways to address child poverty and respond more effectively to the severe deprivation of basic needs: food, education, health, information, shelter, water and sanitation.
According to the Regional Director for South Asia, Daniel Toole, “Unlike any other region in the world, due to persistent and deep inequalities in the region, children in South Asia become trapped in an unrelenting cycle of discrimination at several levels – poor nutrition, health and sanitation and being excluded from education. This puts a child’s face to chronic poverty so we can now design more strategic policies.”
UNICEF is proposing that a shift in the definition of poverty needs to take place – away from a narrow measurement that addresses income exclusively to a definition that includes income poverty, deprivation and well-being. This approach can result in comprehensive policy responses that target a more holistic approach to achieving children’s well-being. They emphasize several key interventions and investments, that include scaling-up national programmes on nutrition and associated health interventions, including community-based management of malnutrition, newborn and maternal health initiatives and support to basic health services through childhood, youth and early adulthood for women, as well as improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene and education.