Washington – A UNICEF study covering 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) said on Monday that at least 29 million children live in poverty – one in four children in the region.
The analysis said that children were deprived of the minimum requirements in two or more of the most basic life necessities, including basic education, decent housing, nutritious food, quality healthcare, safe water, sanitation and access to information.
It added that lack of education was one of the key factors of inequality and poverty for children.
Noting that children who live in households that are headed by an uneducated family member were twice as likely to live in poverty, UNICEF said that one quarter of children between the ages 5 and 17 were not enrolled in school or have fallen two grades behind.
In addition, the study showed that almost half of all children were not fully immunized or were born to mothers who did not get enough antenatal care or birth assistance.
UNICEF also revealed that one in five children were forced to walk more than 30 minutes to fetch water or use unsafe drinking water, adding that more than one third of children live in homes with no tap water.
“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,” according to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), who was speaking at a regional conference on child poverty held in Rabat, Morocco.
“The return on investing in the most vulnerable children now is a peaceful and prosperous region in the future” Cappelaere said.
“It takes a combination of true leadership and courageous public and private investment from governments, civil society, private sector, individuals and the international community,” he added.