For World Children’s Day, we must commit to children’s rights as human rights
November 20th is World Children’s Day—a day to reflect on how we adults are fulfilling our responsibilities to protect, cherish, and uplift kids. Children are among the most oppressed groups in our midst. They cannot vote; they have no direct representation in world governments. And yet, they are sentient, whole people affected deeply by the decisions and actions of the adults around them. And like those adults, children’s rights are human rights. But for kids, we are falling exceptionally short. On November 13th in advance of World Children’s Day, RESULTS and its global partners held a congressional briefing to spotlight the urgency for delivering on human rights of our kids.
The briefing echoed the theme of this 2023 World Children’s Day: For Every Child, Every Right. One right that should apply to each child worldwide is the right to safety. This right includes freedom from the threat of preventable death. Two in three children under 5 years old do not get enough food. Malnutrition is a gateway to needless suffering. These children are more susceptible to deadly diseases like tuberculosis, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Being malnourished by itself causes devastating health problems like stunting and even brain damage.
But we also know how to address malnutrition. In 2022, RESULTS helped drive a one-time funding surge for UNICEF to deliver re-doubled nourishment interventions. It worked. UNICEF supported programs that reached 7.3 million children with life-saving treatment for malnutrition. This was a 35 percent increase from 2021 and the highest number of children treated for severe malnourishment since 2007. These interventions had a ripple effect on the many health issues worsened by hunger. Next year in 2024, there will be key opportunities to protect and increase funding for nutrition so we can continue to reach more kids. Now is the time to start talking about this issue with your members of Congress.
The right to safety from preventable death also means vaccine access. The COVID-19 pandemic consumed many vaccine resources. There was an alarming increase in children globally who never received a single dose of standard childhood vaccines (what some call “zero dose”). These vaccines prevent devastating diseases like whooping cough, measles, and pneumonia. But once again, we know what works. An alliance dedicated to vaccine equity (and a key RESULTS partner), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, helps coordinate a dedicated effort to reach children with “zero doses.” Since the pandemic they have reached over two million kids to deliver childhood vaccines, almost erasing the startling backslide during the pandemic. But the U.S needs to set the tone in 2024 for Gavi funding replenishment to ensure all kids get vaccines. This means now is the time to lay the groundwork with lawmakers for Gavi support.
Finally, all children have the right to learn. Every child is born wired to explore and understand the world around them. Children are natural scientists, storytellers, and artists. Mastering the early learning skills of literacy, numeracy, and social emotional regulation empowers children. With the ability to read, do basic math, and participate in their communities, children can engage in school and experience the joy of learning. They also become better prepared for their later roles as adults. The US government’s leadership in the right to learn is on the line right now. We have the opportunity to tell Congress to reauthorize the READ Act, which will continue and enhance US supports for global early learning. Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor the READ Act Reauthorization and prioritize it before the end of 2023.
These are the concrete steps we can take to start delivering on children’s humans rights– and ensure our lawmakers do too. Twenty-two Congressional offices attended the briefing across both parties, which shows significant interest for one briefing. Let’s build on that momentum and launch a children’s rights revolution this World Children’s Day.