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Prospects For Children: A Global Outlook Through 2025 – UNICEF

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At a time of global crisis and rising uncertainty, does the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remain a possibility?
The next five years will be critical for children.
Each passing year brings us closer to 2030, the year for which the world has set ambitious goals for itself – including for children – in the shape of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Progress in the next five years will decide if the vision of the Goals remains a possibility.
Our analysis looks at the prospects for the world’s children based on a review of the evolving context, and it does so at a time of global crisis and rising uncertainty. COVID-19, climate change, the unwinding of democratic expansion, a shaken spirit of multilateralism – all are having a profound and lasting impact on children.
This state of the world today threatens to overshadow two decades of historic progress that has shaped the lives of children for the better. This progress has been driven by a convergence in living standards as poor countries start to catch up with wealthier counterparts and an overall improvement in the lives of children ,thanks to new technologies, new knowledge and new norms  from the proliferation of antimalarial bed nets to demands for gender equality and  access to education.
Whether these forces persist or whether they reverse in the coming years will be critical when we come to look back and assess the progress made for children at this vexed and complex moment in our history.
The likelihood of a two-tier recovery from the pandemic, with rich countries exiting first, creates conditions for an historic disinvestment in children in many developing countries that would put the SDGs for children out of reach.
On the flip side, the possibility of an acceleration in technological advances that benefit children, inspired by the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, and advanced further by an emboldened role for the state in funding research and development.
Weakened multilateralism risks stifling progress on the world’s greatest collective action problems, including many of the biggest threats to children’s lives.
The effects of climate change on children’s health, development and well-being will become increasingly apparent.
Meanwhile, the role of young people as a formidable force in driving change in attitudes, behaviours and policy concerning climate is likely to grow and become increasingly sophisticated.
A deepening digital divide risks leaving children in the Global South furthest behind in terms of their ability to benefit from digital tools, and most exposed to deficiencies in digital governance.
A trend towards youth activism is to continue as young people opt out of traditional forms of political participation, distrust electoral processes and express dissatisfaction with democracy.

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Hints On How To Safeguard Kids 

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Nurturing and care of children is something parents and guardians should take seriously especially in this digital era.  Children can easily hurt themselves as it is part of growing up.  This means that parents should do their best to keep them from preventable accidents.
Knowing where the children are at a particular time to avoid being abducted by unknown persons should give parents some concern.
A lot has to be done for parents to achieve that.  Parents must set up basic safety rules and regulations for their children to abide by.
We are aware that parenting can be stressful but abiding by experts advice can help achieve that.
It is necessary to take photographs of  children before they get to a  place with large number of persons.
A place like Pleasure Park, or any other tourist centre which might be crowded   can be an example.  Children from many homes can look alike and may want to leave with others as soon as they become friendly in such places that have large-volume attendance.
If you are not careful, some may also walk across the roads and walk into moving vehicles.  In as much as parents do not wish that happens to their children, it is better to be prepared in case it happens.
According to experts, a parent can take a picture of her child before visiting an amusement park or attending a birthday party.
When a parent does that, he or she can have a picture of how the children are and the kind of attires they put on that very day in case the children are declared missing.
If it is a tourist centre for instance, the parent will show the childrens’ picture to the authorities concerned and it will make it easier and more effective.
During parties and outdoor visits, watch what your children consume because they will like to taste every delicacy prepared.
Allow them take only the quantity they can consume.  Some may not be used to a lot of dishes and drinks especially the in-house prepared drinks and juice.
The effect of excess consumption might be when you finally return home for a rest and the children begin to react to food poison.
Domestic accidents are easily noticed among kids.  Keeping inflammable substances away from children is important.
An incident occurred where a four-year-old boy stroke a stick of matches into a jerry- can that contains petrol at the house corridor. The result was the entire residential building gutted by fire.
The kid had minor burn as his elder siblings together with him escaped through the back door from the kitchen.
Children should be discouraged from using candle light.
Gas cylinders must be tightly closed when not in use as children can turn it on when not in use.
Washing detergents like bleach, hypo and others must be out of reach of children because they may mistake them for water.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Need To Take Care Of Children Worldwide

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At the end of last year, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a new report, ‘Preventing A Lost Decade: Urgent Action’ to reverse the devastating impact of COVID- 19 on children and young people. While it is easy for reports released in December to get lost in the end of the year rush, this report needs everyone’s attention. UNICEF called COVID-19 the greatest challenge to children in its 75-year history; and the situation is exacerbated by conflict, disaster, and climate change.
The facts tell a sobering story about the impact of the pandemic on children.
In less than two years, 100 million more children have fallen into poverty, a 10 percent, increase since 2019.
In 2020, over 23 million children missed out on essential vaccines.
50 million children suffer from wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, and this could increase by 9 million by 2022
At its peak in March 2020, 1.6 billion children were facing school closure.
Behind every one of these numbers are real stories: young children were left behind as preschool closed and food lines grew. School age children, particularly those with the most to gain, had limited access to remote learning. Teens suffered from social isolation and lack of mental health supports, and growing demands for early marriage. Parents tried their best to keep it all going; yet too often without the financial and social resources they needed. And the unpredictability of everyday life brought stress that seemed almost impossible to bear.
Fortunately, many communities around the world rallied: volunteers delivered food, distributed protective equipment and set up new hygiene facilities, and teachers worked to connect children with resources at home. We were all inspired by stories of people working for change, from health care workers to childcare providers, from youth to seniors.
Yet the challenges facing children were alarming even before COVID-19 became a household word. Approximately, one billion children, nearly half of the world’s children live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change and more and more children are forcibly displaced, all too often from conflict that could have been and should have been avoided.
Clearly, those in positions of power need to make investing in children, families, and communities a priority this year and in the years ahead. This is particularly true for U.S Foreign Assistance. Building on earlier work, in June of 2019, the U.S. launched Advancing Protection and Care for Children in Adversity: A United States Government Strategy for International Assistance (2019-23). This important document outlines a strategy for investing in the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2020 Congress passed the Global Child Thrive Act, providing additional direction for U.S. Government to invest in early childhood development. These are both important steps; now we all have to assure that they receive the attention and resources that this movement deserves.
The UNICEF report outlines an urgent agenda for action for children, including recommendations to invest in social protection, health, and education as well as building resilience to better prevent, respond to and protect children. Government, business and civil society and the public need to work together. But as in any crises, each individual action makes a difference. We can not wait for someone else to step forward with a solution. Each of us must ask: What can I do to help a neighbour, work in my community, build awareness, provide another voice, help empower others? What else can we do to integrate these issues into every field of study: from health to education, from diplomacy to economic development, from environmental studies to urban planning and design?
In their powerful new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, Jane Goodall and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson, addressed an important question-How do we stay hopeful when everything seems hopeless? What is so uplifting about this story is that it draws a clear link between hope and action. It seems to be telling us that, while important, it is not the resilience of nature or the human intellect alone that matter, but also our spirit and belief in the possibilities and the power to take action. I can’t think of a better year to start.
Lombardi is an international expert on early childhood development and Senior Fellow at the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues, Georgetown University.

By: Joan Lombardi

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Disaster News And Post-Traumatic Effects On Children 

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Disaster on television and social media can trigger post-traumatic stress in kids thousands of miles away, says a research conducted by  Jonathan Comer and Anthony Steven Dick of Florida International University.
According to them, when disasters strike, the flood of images on television and social media can have a powerful psychological impact on children  whether those children are physically in the line of danger or watching from thousands of miles away.
“Our latest research uses brain scans to show how simply watching newAs coverage of disasters can raise children’s anxiety and trigger responses in their brains that put them at risk of post-traumatic stress symptoms. It also explores why some children are more vulnerable to those effects than others.”
This risk is important for parents and media to understand.
In just the past few months, news coverage has been saturated with images of wildfires burning through neighbourhoods in Colorado, tornado damage across the Midwest, a school shooting in Michigan ,news of rising illnesses from the COVID-19 pandemic and recently, the Russian and Ukraine war crisis.
With climate change, researchers estimate that today’s children will face three times as many climate-related disasters as their grandparents. And the pervasiveness of social media and 24-hour news make exposure to images of disasters more likely.
As a neuroscientist and a psychologist who study youth anxiety and the adolescent brain, we have been exploring ways to identify children who are most at risk.
Though there is harm to some kids’ mental health, but not all.
The Academy of Paediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health in 2021 as mental health professionals saw rising rates of mental health problems in youth.
Exposure to disasters in particular can trigger post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as loss of sleep, intrusive thoughts about the experience, memory impairments or severe emotional distress. But while around 10 percent of people who are directly exposed to traumatic events develop symptoms that are severe enough to meet diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a majority do not.
Understanding which factors help determine whether disaster exposure will lead to serious mental health problems may help identify children at greatest risk for PTSD, facilitate early intervention and help develop targeted mental health outreach in the aftermath of disasters.
This also applies to children exposed to disasters and other traumatic events through media.
A once-dominant theory of disaster mental health, sometimes called the “bull’s-eye model,” proposed that the negative mental health effects of a disaster were directly related to how close the person was to the centre of the event – the bull’s-eye. But more and more studies are finding that the negative mental health effects of disasters extend far beyond the immediate disaster area.
Sensationalised 24-hour news cycles on television and online are part of the reason, studies suggest. These media are designed to attract viewers and keep them engaged. This is especially true for content on social media, which often contains more graphic images and scenes than typically broadcast by more traditional news sources.
Continuous news coverage of hurricanes can help residents understand the risks but can also scare children.
So, why are some children vulnerable to these media influences, whereas others are not?
Our research points to preexisting and identifiable neurobiological profiles that can make young people especially susceptible to the harmful mental health effects of disaster-related news coverage.
When Hurricane Irma struck in 2017, we were able to use a national long-term research project that was already underway to study how children were coping both before and after the disaster. We could look at the types of disaster exposure, and whether any preexisting characteristics could distinguish those children who went on to develop post-traumatic stress symptoms from those who did not.
We were able to more firmly establish whether changes were due to disaster and media exposure, and not something else.
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study followed 11,800 children across the United States over a 10-year period using a variety of brain imaging and mental health assessments. Three of the study sites – two in Florida and one in South Carolina – were hit by Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes on record.
In the week before Irma made landfall, national media coverage provided highly dramatic, around-the-clock forecasting of the impending “catastrophic” storm and its threat of destruction of “epic proportions.” Irma led to the largest human evacuation in U.S. history, about 7 million people.
After the storm, we collected additional data from about 400 of the project’s participants at the three sites affected by Irma and a demographically similar site on the other side of the country, in San Diego. We assessed their exposure to the hurricane and to media coverage ahead of the storm, and the extent to which the child exhibited post-traumatic stress symptoms six to eight months after the storm, when the children were 11 to 13 years old.
We found that greater media exposure was associated with higher reporting of post-traumatic stress symptoms and the link was just as strong in San Diego youth as it was in Florida youth.
In MRI brain scans, the association between media exposure and post-traumatic stress symptoms were strongest for children with a strong response in the amygdala, a brain area involved in processing fear and detecting threats.
Earlier in the study, many of the same children had been particularly reactive when viewing fearful facial expressions. At the same time, their brain scans showed reduced activity in another region of the brain, the orbitofrontal cortex, thought to be involved in reducing emotional arousal.
That brain activation profile marked vulnerability for developing post-traumatic stress symptoms after viewing disaster-related media coverage.
What can parents do?
These findings highlight how children do not need to be in harm’s way or even close to a disaster to be affected by it. Exposure to media coverage of a disaster can have a substantial impact as well.
They also suggest that there are identifiable vulnerabilities that might make some children more likely to be emotionally affected by media.
Scientists are increasingly interested in understanding what exposure to traumatic news coverage is doing to younger viewers who are still developing a sense of security. Recent research has suggested that parents should also be concerned about children’s exposure to social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok.
Phones in South Florida lit up with warnings during Hurricane Irma.
So what can parents do? For starters, parents can monitor and limit access to some internet content for young viewers.
While it is important for parents to get periodic updates about impending storms or fires, extended exposure to such content rarely provides additional actionable information. Intermittent check-ins of breaking news may be appropriate, but the TV and social media do not have to be on constantly.
It’s easy to routinely unplug, and it’s good for the mental health of children.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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