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Violent discipline, sexual abuse and homicides stalk millions of children worldwide

(2 November 2017) Staggering numbers of children – some as young as 12 months old – are experiencing violence, often by those entrusted to take care of them, UNICEF said in a new report released today. “The harm inflicted on children around the world is truly worrying,” said UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Cornelius Williams. “Babies slapped in the face; girls and boys forced into sexual acts; adolescents murdered in their communities – violence against children spares no one and knows no boundaries.”A 15 year old, holds her doll inside her house at North Jakarta Indonesia. During the night she sings at a cafe in a red light district in the capital. A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents (download at right or below) uses the very latest data to show that children experience violence across all stages of childhood and in all settings:Violence against young children in their homes:Three-quarters of the world’s 2- to 4-year-old children – around 300 million – experience psychological aggression and/or physical punishment by their caregivers at home;Around 6 in 10 one year olds in 30 countries with available data are subjected to violent discipline on a regular basis. Nearly a quarter of one-year-olds are physically shaken as punishment and nearly 1 in 10 are hit or slapped on the face, head or ears.Worldwide, 1 in 4 children under age five – 176 million – are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence.Sexual violence against girls and boys:Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lifetime. Only 1 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced sexual violence said they reached out for professional help. In the 28 countries with data, 90 per cent of adolescent girls who had experienced forced sex, on average, said the perpetrator of the first incident was known to them. Data from six countries reveals friends, classmates and partners were among the most frequently cited perpetrators of sexual violence against adolescent boys. Violent deaths among adolescents:Globally, every 7 minutes an adolescent is killed by an act of violence.In the United States, non-Hispanic black boys aged 10 to 19 years old are almost 19 times more likely to be murdered than non-Hispanic white boys of the same age. If the homicide rate among non-Hispanic black adolescent boys is applied nationwide, the United States would be one of the top ten most deadly countries in the world. In 2015, the risk of being killed by homicide for a non-Hispanic black adolescent boy in the United States was the same as the risk of being killed due to collective violence for an adolescent boy living in war-torn South Sudan.Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region where adolescent homicide rates have increased; nearly half of all homicides among adolescents globally occurred in this region in 2015.Violence in schools:Half the population of school-age children – 732 million – live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited. Three-quarters of documented school shootings that have taken place over the past 25 years occurred in the United States.A 10 year old boy whose father and five uncles were killed in gang violence in Honduras UNICEF Innocenti is conducting an ongoing multi-country study on the drivers of violence affecting children in Italy, Peru, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe. One of the key emerging findings is that violence affecting children should not be understood as an interaction between a child and another person, but through the socio-ecology of violence with complex, shifting layers of exposure to violence in all its forms.UNICEF prioritises efforts to end violence across all its work, including supporting government efforts to improve services for children affected by violence, developing policies and legislation that protect children, and helping communities, parents and children to prevent violence through practical programmes like parenting courses and actions against domestic violence. To end violence against children, UNICEF is calling for governments to take urgent action and support the INSPIRE guidance which has been agreed and promoted by WHO, UNICEF and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, including:Adopting well-coordinated national action plans to end violence against children – incorporating education, social welfare, justice and health systems, as well as communities and children themselves.Changing behaviours of adults and addressing factors that contribute to violence against children, including economic and social inequities, social and cultural norms that condone violence, inadequate policies and legislation, insufficient services for victims, and limited investments in effective systems to prevent and respond to violence. Focussing national policies on minimizing violent behaviour, reducing inequalities, and limiting access to firearms and other weapons. Building social service systems and training social workers to provide referrals, counselling and therapeutic services for children who have experienced violence. Educating children, parents, teachers, and community members to recognise violence in all its many forms and empowering them to speak out and report violence safely. Collecting better disaggregated data on violence against children and tracking progress through robust monitoring and evaluation.For more information about the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, please go to article was adapted from a story forst published on
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Social protection shows potential to promote active citizenship

(24 October 2017) A new UNICEF Innocenti study, Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: The Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection, considers how social protection can address vulnerability while encouraging active citizenship.  The paper shines light on how social protection programmes can be informed and developed through active citizenship measures which simultaneously reduce vulnerability of the poor and strengthen accountability measures that empower citizens to voice their concerns.Community gathering for a LEAP social protection payment in Maweakpor in the Volta Region, Ghana Co-authored by Richard de Groot, UNICEF Innocenti consultant, Tayllor Renee Spadafora of UNICEF Ghana, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai University of Ghana, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Nikhil Wilmink from the Institute of Development Studies, the Innocenti Working Paper demonstrates how social protection programmes can promote social accountability mechanisms that enhance citizen-state participation.“In many countries with established social protection policies, there are usually standalone programmes without transformative effects. Social protection has the potential for so much more – to give people a voice in society – and that’s what we’re trying to measure here,” said co-author Richard de Groot.“A lot of people know what it means to be an active citizen – holding authorities accountable, protesting to achieve goals, etc. – but there is a small proportion of people actually doing this,” said de Groot. “Since social protection targets the most vulnerable populations, including those without a voice in society, if implemented well, social protection has the potential to expand their voices and participation in society.”Figure: How social accountability mechanisms enable citizen-State interfaces within social protection programmesSocial protection for active citizenship aims to create intrinsic benefits that promote citizen engagement, ideally creating a pathway for citizens to evolve from consumers and users in invited spaces to makers and shapers claiming spaces to voice their concerns to the State.Looking at evidence from three countries – Brazil, India, and Ghana – the study aims to show how social rights vary across countries and how different cultural contexts and programmes contribute to the stimulation of justice-based claims. In Ghana, where a higher dependence on aid provision exists, justice-based social protection is in its infancy. However, progress promoting active citizenship is seen emerging on a local level in the form of beneficiary demand and feedback on social protection programmes including the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer programme.  Ghana’s national social protection policy, launched in June 2016, helps to promote active citizenship and beneficiary rights through accountability measures embedded in the policy.  In India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme provides a framework to promote citizen rights and entitlements through accountability and transparency measures enabling citizens to voice their concerns. In Brazil, the Bolsa Família programmes grew from the municipal level, encouraging citizens to engage and to pressure the state to meet its commitments.“What we see at the moment is that in a lot of low-income countries, citizen engagement is very much closed and it is the government that decides what programmes happen and how,” de Groot added. “Through mutual reinforcement, programmes focusing on linking social rights to active citizenship allow the State to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens and the citizens to be more engaged in society.”While the case studies show signs of promise, de Groot notes that despite rapid growth, most programmes currently only promote a “one-way invited space”.  “There is so much potential to move beyond this to get more engaged citizens claiming their space where the most vulnerable can get a double benefit from social protection programmes that help people to fulfil livelihoods and engage in society.”    
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Tunisia study explores effect of intervention packages on childhood stunting

(19 October 2017) A new UNICEF Innocenti Working Paper: Child Undernourishment, WASH and Policy Synergies in Tunisia, establishes an econometric strategy for implementing UNICEF’s conceptual framework on nutrition by analysing the effects of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) investments on child stunting. Looking at evidence from different populations and locations in Tunisia – a country with uneven progress in child nutrition – the paper asserts that successful mitigation of child stunting cannot rely on one universal approach, but instead requires mapping and application of the most effective intervention packages by residence and socioeconomic status to meet the varied needs of children in different contexts.A family in their kitchen in an urban low income area of Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia. Many families in the neighborhood arrived from rural areas in search of jobs, but most are now unemployed. The paper, co-authored by UNICEF Innocenti’s Jose Cuesta and the World Bank’s Laura Maratou-Kolias, demonstrates how improvements in stunting come from successful integration of interventions from nutrition and WASH sectors. While UNICEF’s strategy has long recognized that WASH interventions can improve nutrition, this paper intends to enable policy makers and programme managers to implement more effective intervention packages to improve nutrition outcomes specific to targeted population groups.“Typically, economists will tell you which intervention has the largest impact, but we wanted to look at which packages of interventions correlate with the best outcomes,” Cuesta, author and Social Policy Chief with UNICEF Innocenti, said. “Indicators are just one part of how to improve programing – in this paper, we’re trying to provide a bigger strategy to inform policy interventions, linking UNICEF’s conceptual framework with multidimensional indicators to follow over time.”In the case of Tunisia, the study analysed which investments had the largest impact on improving child nutrition using data from the 2012 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey. The estimates indicated that multi-sectoral invention packages varied in how they correlated with better nutrition outcomes depending on socioeconomic status and residence.  Among rural poor groups in Tunisia, for example, packages combining WASH, care, food security and health interventions did not show significant effects on child nutrition, whereas this combination was effective in Tunisian urban settings. Among rural poor groups, integration of care and food security interventions alone correlated with better nutritional outcomes for children. Integrated multi-sectoral interventions for appropriate child nutrition. Adapted from UNICEF policy review 1990 Intervention packages can be ineffective for several reasons. Lack of sufficient investment and poor efficiency in implemention can explain why some interventions are more effective than others, especially for the most vulnerable rural poor. According to Cuesta, measurement and evaluation need to be improved in order to implement better targeted solutions.“The data from Tunisia shows that single interventions don’t work – or don’t correlate with the best outcomes for nutrition specifically,” said Cuesta. “Only packages work, but not all packages worked for every location, setting, or socioeconomic zone. Packages aren’t going to work the same for everyone.” This research aims to lay the foundation for more effective efforts to mitigate child stunting by improving understanding of how interventions from different sectors should be packaged differentially to address undernourishment by population group and location. The paper stresses that a single intervention will not bring uniform benefits across different types of households and that since investments are limited, interventions need to selectively respond to the specific requirements of different types of households before nutrition can improve evenly for all Tunisian children.Keywords:Nutrition, stunting, WASH, programming, TunisiaRelated publications:UNICEF Strategy for Improved Nutrition of Children and Women in Developing CountriesImproving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progressThe role of foods as source of nutrients in the prevention of stuntingCash Transfers and Child Nutrition: What We Know and What We Need to Know  
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Child Dignity in a digital world Congress at Vatican City

(10 October 2017) UNICEF Innocenti was invited to present the results of a survey launched by Global Kids Online (GKO), an international research project co-sponsored with the London School of Economics, at the “Child Dignity in the Digital World” congress organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and the WeProtect Global Alliance, 3-6 October. The Congress brought together outstanding experts, leaders and government representatives from around the world to discuss international efforts to protect children from online sexual abuse and other issues related to child protection in the digital age.In his remarks Pope Francis recognized the great advantages offered by the digital revolution, but exhorted social media businesses to invest “a fair portion of their great profits” to protect “impressionable minds” and to guide the processes set in motion by growth of technology, rejecting any “ideological and mythical vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom”.An adolescent girl reading a text at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome first congress on Child Dignity Congress on protecting children from online sexual abuse. The final “Declaration of Rome” called on politicians, religious leaders, and stakeholder organizations to help build a global awareness to protect children from online exploitation. Jasmina Byrne, child protection specialist at UNICEF Innocenti, introduced the GKO project and shared insights from 5 countries that have already made their results public: Argentina, Bulgaria, South Africa, Chile and Montenegro Between 32 and 68 per cent of children have seen sexual images online, and between 11 and 27 per cent have felt upset by the images. Moreover, between 7 and 26 per cent of interviewed children were targeted by sexual images with up to 39 per cent feeling upset about it. Both experiences were more common among the older children. Between 20 and 41 per cent of children accepted contact with people they were familiar with but had not met in person, while in the 12 months prior to the surveys between 8 and 32 per cent of children met a “stranger” and of those up to 40 per cent fell into the 15-17 age range. “Although only between 1 and 8 per cent were upset by meeting those they did not know before” said Jasmina Byrne, “… we should not neglect the number of those who felt bothered about this experience and we need to know more about these children.”Byrne also highlighted some of the implications for policy that have resulted from the survey, including: the close connection between offline and online risks and the need to understand more about the children who are most vulnerable to online harm. She also highlighted the importance of adopting a child-centered approach to online risks, giving full recognition of diversity in children’s lives, age and gender. Early educational interventions, especially for younger children, to support the development of children’s digital skills, literacies and safety practices are among the most critical recommendations coming out of the GKO research to date. Byrne emphasized the importance of promoting digital citizenship and child safety online through a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral approach, and with engagement from parents and children themselves. Jasmina Byrne, child protection specialist with UNICEF Innocenti shaking hands with Pope Francis at the Pontifical Gregorian University Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World. The random household surveys undertaken by GKO research partner countries did not specifically target children or groups of children who are vulnerable to sexual abuse online, but instead looked at the whole range of children’s experiences online. As of 2017 it has collected data from 10 countries and some 10,000 children and 5,000 parents. More information available about country reports, comparative analysis and other resources at and Also presenting at the Congress was Cornelius Williams, Global Chief of Child Protection based at UNICEF headquarters in New York. Williams explained how the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 provide an important global commitment endorsed by the world’s governments to advocate for improved multi-sectoral efforts to protect children from violence and exploitation online.Prof. Hans Zollner SJ, President of the Centre for Child Protection said “The congress provides an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practice on risks and prevention as children navigate this new digital world.”Baroness Shields OBE, UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security said: “Our increasingly connected society greatly empowers children, but also exposes them to risks that compromise their safety and wellbeing. To address these escalating global threats we need a broad coalition of government, faith leaders, academia and industry, all committed to protecting the dignity of children in this digital age.” The Pontifical Gregorian University conference in Rome provided an opportunity to reflect on the magnitude of a rapidly growing global phenomenon which involves children from all ages and in all countries, and to discuss online bullying, pornography and paedophilia at the presence of representatives from the main social media business companies, including Facebook and Microsoft.The international research project GKO developed by UNICEF Innocenti, London School of Economics, EU Kids Online is a first step in that direction. GKO provides a methodology and a research framework to carry out comparative research worldwide with children from 9-17 and their parents, and to build evidence that can be used to help policy makers and practitioners develop approaches to protect children’s rights in the digital age; maximizing their opportunities to benefit from the internet while minimizing risk of harm. 
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