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Bhutanese children at risk despite significant socio-economic progress

Chief Advisor to the Interim Government, Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk, discussed on the importance of childcare and protection, proper hand washing and UNICEF plans in the country with UNICEF Resident Representative Beate Albine Dastel yesterday afternoon.

Mrs. Dastel thanked the Chief Advisor for the Royal Government’s initiative on the prayer ceremony conducted for Late Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary- General of the United Nations.

According to the UNICEF’s Annual Report 2017, some of the key areas UNICEF would be looking into in the next few years are addressing multidimensional poverty among children, reduce neonatal, infant and child mortality, stunting and anemia, and to enhance access to Early Child Care and Development (ECCD) services.

The report explains that significant challenges and risks remain for children. “The 2017 multidimensional poverty index shows a positive trend and a reduction of multidimensional poverty from 12.7 percent in 2012 to 5.8 percent in 2017, but is highest among children between 0-9 years. This indicates that children are especially vulnerable and highlights the need to analyse child poverty further and invest explicitly in its reduction,” states the report.

Further, a recent analysis undertaken by UNICEF that looked at national progress towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reportedly showed that from eight SDGs most pertinent for children, four are at risk.

“Further investment in key social sectors is therefore necessary to reduce neonatal, infant and child mortality, stunting and anemia, and to enhance access to ECCD services,” states the Annual Report.

The report also mentioned that newborn mortality remains high – accounting for 68 percent of infant mortality and 56 percent of under-five mortality. Enrolment in pre-primary education remains low at 22 percent.

“To facilitate LDC graduation and, more critically, ensure longer-term sustainability, greater attention needs to be paid to the structural and other challenges that Bhutan faces. To address this situation, and to ensure enhanced effectiveness of development programmes, UNICEF Bhutan is increasingly focused on cross-sectoral programming, for example ECCD with a focus on early learning and disability, and child protection, with a focus on children who live without parental care (including in boarding schools and monastic institutions),” recommends the report.

Together with other UN agencies, UNICEF maintained that they are also strengthening their approach to address the emerging areas of youth, migration, urbanization and climate change.

“To ensure that resources for children are put to good use during the upcoming transition period for the country, UNICEF will continue to support service delivery and at the same time put stronger emphasis on evidence-based advocacy and policy making, information management and accountability systems to ensure timely and quality information for decision makers, states the report.

Meanwhile, UNICEF’s work in Bhutan began in 1974 to improve the lives of children, youth and women in Bhutan. Based on the core principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – survival, development, protection and participation – UNICEF Bhutan works on four key programme areas with a strong focus on equity and inclusion.

Yenten Thinley from Thimphu