• The World's Richest Countries are Damaging Child Health Worldwide: UNICEF

    Environment
    The World's Richest Countries are Damaging Child Health Worldwide: UNICEF

    According to the report, if the entire world consumed resources at the rate of OECD and EU countries, 3.3 piles of the earth would be required to keep up with consumption levels.


    Digital Desk: The latest Innocenti Report Card, 17: Places and Spaces, compares how 39 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and European Union (EU) impact children's environments.

     

    Indicators include exposure to harmful pollutants, such as toxic air, pesticides, dampness, lead; access to light, green spaces, and safe roads; and countries' contributions to the climate crisis, resource consumption, and e-waste dumping.

     

    According to the report, if the entire world consumed resources at the rate of OECD and EU countries, 3.3 piles of the earth would be required to keep up with consumption levels.

     

    According to the report, if it were at the rate people in Canada, Luxembourg, and the United States do, at least five earth would be needed.

     

    While Spain, Ireland, and Portugal feature at the top of the list, all OECD and EU countries fail to provide healthy environments for all children across all indicators.

     

    Based on CO2 emissions, e-waste, and overall resource consumption per capita, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and the United States are among other wealthy countries that rank low in creating a healthy environment for children within and beyond their borders.

     

    Meanwhile, Finland, Iceland, and Norway are among those that provide healthier environments for their country's children but disproportionately contribute to destroying the global environment.

     

    "In some cases, we are seeing countries providing relatively healthy environments for children at home while being among the top contributors to pollutants that are destroying children's environments abroad," attested Gunilla Olsson, Director of UNICEF Office of Research.

     

    In contrast, the least wealthy OECD and EU countries in Latin America and Europe have a much lower impact on the wider world.

     

    Over 20 million children in this group have elevated levels of lead, the most dangerous environmental toxic substance in their blood.

    In Iceland, Latvia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, one in five children is exposed to dampness and mold at home, while in Cyprus, Hungary, and Turkey, that number rises to more than one in four.

     

    Many children breathe toxic air both inside and outside of their homes.

     

    More than one in 12 children in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Poland are exposed to high levels of pesticide pollution linked with cancer – including childhood leukemia - and can harm vital body systems.

     

    "We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to create better places and spaces for children to thrive," Ms. Olsson said.

     

    Improve children's environments

    Children in low-income families tend to face greater exposure to environmental harm, entrenching and amplifying existing disadvantages and inequities.

    "Mounting waste, harmful pollutants, and exhausted natural resources are taking a toll on our children's physical and mental health and threatening our planet's sustainability," said the UNICEF official.

    UNICEF has urged national, regional, and local governments to improve children's environments by reducing waste, air, and water pollution and ensuring high-quality housing and neighborhoods.

     

    Children's voices count

    Governments and businesses must immediately honor their commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. And climate adaptation should also be at the forefront of action across various sectors – from education to infrastructure.

    Child-sensitive environmental policies must ensure that children's needs are built into decision-making and that their perspectives are considered when designing policies that disproportionately affect future generations.

    UNICEF's report outlines that although children are the main stakeholders of the future and will face today's environmental problems for the longest time, they are the least able to influence events.

    "We must pursue policies and practices that safeguard the natural environment upon which children and young people depend the most," Ms. Olsson said.