Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN) – Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in a latest report, released on Wednesday.
The report titled ‘The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World’ was launched on the day in the capital Dhaka at the national level in presence of Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam, Secretary of the Planning Ministry; Professor Abul Barkat, Department of Economics, Dhaka University and Chairman of Janata Bank; Pascal Villeneuve, Representative, UNICEF Bangladesh and thirteen year old child representative Moushumi Akhter.
In his speech UNICEF Representative Pascal Villeneuve urged the government and other partners to address the rights of children living in poor urban communities, particularly those living in the slums. “Children in slums and deprived neighborhoods are often invisible to decision makers and lost in a hazy world of statistical averages that conceal grave inequalities”, Pascal Villeneuve added.
Greater urbanization is inevitable. In a few years, the report said, the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than in rural areas. Children born in cities already account for 60 percent of the increase in urban population.
“When we think of poverty, the image that traditionally comes to mind is that of a child in a rural village,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “But today, an increasing number of children living in slums and shantytowns are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world, deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive.”
“Excluding these children in slums not only robs them of the chance to reach their full potential; it robs their societies of the economic benefits of having a well-educated, healthy urban population,” Lake added.
The report said that 28 percent of the total population (41.7 million people) in Bangladesh is living in urban areas. The report also highlights that among the top 21 megacities Dhaka is placed in 9th position with 14.3 million people, while Tokyo (36.5 million), Delhi (21.7 million), Sao Paolo (20.0 million) are in top three positions.
Cities offer many children the advantages of urban schools, clinics and playgrounds. Yet the same cities the world over are also the settings for some of the greatest disparities in children’s health, education and opportunities.
Infrastructure and services are not keeping up with urban growth in many regions and children’s basic needs are not being met. Families living in poverty often pay more for substandard services. Water, for instance, can cost 50 times more in poor neighbourhoods where residents have to buy it from private vendors than it costs in wealthier neighbourhoods where households are connected directly to water mains.
The deprivations endured by children in poor urban communities are often obscured by broad statistical averages that lump together all city dwellers – rich and poor alike. While parents in Dhaka, Bangladesh, spend an average 10 percent of household income per child on schooling costs, this rises to 20 percent in the poorest families. 
Again, in Bangladesh, according to 2009 data, the differences were even more pronounced at the secondary level: 18 percent of children in slums attended secondary school, compared with 53 percent in urban areas as a whole and 48 percent in rural areas. When averages such as these are used in making urban policy and allocating resources, the needs of the poorest can be overlooked.
There is growing evidence that living in a socio-economically disadvantaged urban areas increases the under-five mortality even after the data have been adjusted for factors such as mother’s education or income. For instance, in Bangladesh, recent data 2009 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey indicate that the under-five mortality rate in slums is 79 percent higher than the overall urban rate and 44 percent higher than the rural rate.
The report also mentioned the fact that HIV prevalence remains generally higher in urban areas. A 2010 review of estimates from more than 60 countries found that while HIV infection rate had stabilized or decreased in most countries, including those worst affected, it had risen by more than 25 percent in seven – Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines and Tajikistan.
BBN/SSR/AD-29Feb12-1:30 pm (BST)