Photo credit to Save the Children.

Introduction to the Global Childhood Report 2020

How does your country rank when it comes to the lives of children? As World Moms, our hearts are with children, and we’ve been buzzing about Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report 2020 this summer in our contributors’ group and even on video calls. We’ve come to the conclusion that this year’s report is more important than most, and we’d love to pull our readers into the conversation! 

The Global Childhood Report measures the effects of ill-health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy, conflict and extreme violence on children. Its goal is to reveal where on the planet a child has a better chance at a healthy and happy childhood and where resources need to be focused to provide a better life for kids.  

The Convention on the Rights of the Child identifies the ideal childhood as “healthy children in school and at play, growing strong and confident with the love and encouragement of their family and an extended community of caring adults, gradually taking on the responsibilities of adulthood, free from fear, safe from violence, protected from abuse and exploitation.” 

Singapore has held the top spot since 2018, the year in which Save the Children began using national estimates instead of relying only on UN data. (According to the nonprofit, the change in data source made the rankings more accurate.) But what does holding the top spot mean? 

With possible points from 1-1,000, with 1,000 being the best possible scenario for children, the country scores measure the extent at which children living in their respective nations experience childhood enders, or situations which cause death or cause a child to have to enter adult roles too soon. Out of 180 countries this year the actual scores ranged from Singapore with the highest score of 989, where kids are more likely to experience an ideal childhood, to Niger with the lowest score of 375, where children are most likely to experience an early death or difficult living situations.

Joining Singapore at the top of the list, 8 out of the top 10 ranked countries were western European, and all 10 at the very bottom of the list were from sub-Saharan Africa, emphasizing an undeniable geographic and economic difference in the welfare of children. The good news is that globally 121 countries improved the well-being of children in their countries this year, while only 19 countries declined. 

Singapore #1

Hailing from Singapore, World Mom, Karen Grosse, recently joined us via video call, where we were able to get her reaction to her country’s top ranking. “Wow, Singapore’s #1! I had a quick read through of the factors, and I’d agree that our kids are very protected.”, she stated. 

What we learned from Karen was that only the first 6 years of primary education are mandatory in Singapore, and the government subsidizes education, which works out to be only $13 Singapore per month, or about $9.50 USD per month. She explained that the subsidies continue for secondary schooling with fees around $25 – $43 Singapore ($18 -$32 USD) per month for most schools and that the low school fees encourage most children to continue their education past the mandatory 6 years.

In addition, Singapore’s cultural emphasis on the importance of education also keeps kids in school, which attributes towards the country’s very low rates of adolescent marriages and teen births. 

Yet another contributing factor toward Singapore’s top ranking is mandatory vaccinations from birth against life threatening diseases such as TB, diphtheria, hepatitis, measles, rubella, and more. At school children receive free annual health checks, eye tests, and even dental visits. In fact, when we spoke, Karen, a teacher, explained that her students had just had their health checks and immunizations earlier in the morning by a health team which comes to the school to conduct the healthcare! Singapore also has a universal healthcare system, and all of the countries in the top 10 either have universal healthcare or some type of healthcare safety net for those who don’t have health insurance to ensure that everyone’s covered. 

As for gun violence, Karen described that guns are not legal in the country, and gun deaths are not existent to rare. In fact, the penalties for having a gun are quite severe in Singapore and can include imprisonment and caning according to gunpolicy.org.

USA #43

As for my own country, the U.S. dropped 7 places in the childhood index this year to number forty-three. For the previous 3 years, the US had been ranked at 36, still noticeably low for a wealthy nation. Here, one in five children continue to live below the poverty line, gun violence continues to be an issue, as well as, systematic racism.

Although the current administration has tried to expire healthcare and food programs that are already in place and support the well-being of children, these efforts have been blocked by Congress, and the programs remain. It is important that the U.S. keeps programs such as SNAP benefits, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act intact for those who need them most, as they also affect the welfare of the nation’s children. 

Vaccinations are mandatory for children entering school, unless there is a state exemption, which in some states is loosely used. This has caused vaccination rates to become lower in places in the country in more recent years and increases the chances of an outbreak of a possibly fatal childhood disease. Children who have healthcare receive their vaccinations from their doctors, and the federal and local governments have programs to ensure that children who need vaccinations can easily receive them without charge.

Children’s education in the U.S. is paid for in our local real estate taxes, and in many places in the country this includes those big yellow school buses to school seen in the movies! In 2017 the most recent year for published data, the teenage pregnancy rate was on a decline dropping below 18 births per 1000 girls. The high school graduation rate in the U.S. is on a uptick at 85%, with statistics being higher for White and Asian children, and below the average for Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.   

Currently even though the U.S. has only 4.25% of the world’s population, it has 24.75% of the world’s COVID cases as of Aug. 19, 2020, so the pandemic most likely will have an unequal negative impact on the U.S.’s Global Child Report ranking next year compared to other wealthy nations who were less exposed to the virus. Only time will tell. 

Canada #28, Italy #8, South Africa #119, and India #115

Next, let’s hear how some of the World Moms reacted to their own country’s listing in the Global Childhood Report.  

“Canada is 28th. Nowhere near where we should be given the wealth of the country and its focus on human rights.” – World Mom, Kirsten Doyle in Canada

“Although I have lived in South Africa since I was 8 years old (and both my children were born here) I still feel that I am Italian. I’m, therefore, proud to see that Italy is ranked 8th out of 180 countries and scored a very respectable 982/1,000 (the top score was 989/1,000). The Italian government keeps putting measures in place to assist families with children, because the birth rate is still relatively low, and they actually want to encourage more people to have children. Each child is considered precious – sometimes too much so (in the sense that I find many of them to be rather spoilt).

Unfortunately, South Africa, where I live now, doesn’t fare as well. SA is ranked 119th out of 180 with a score of 775/1,000 (the bottom score is 375/1,000). We have a dreadful, systemic issue with violence against women and children in this country. There is also a lack of adequate schools. A situation that is aggravated by “protests” that destroy the very schools that are so direly needed. All of this has been aggravated by the COVID-19 Lockdown. Currently 51% of families are not “food secure”.

They were living “paycheck to paycheck” and for far too many people the paychecks stopped in March! Unfortunately, millions of people have lost their livelihoods completely and are relying on charity to put food on the table. Sadly, the situation for far too many children in SA is only going to get worse. The South African government has failed its people.”  — World Mom, Simona Rinfreschi in South Africa

“India ranks #115. Earlier India had made a lot of progress in making childhood a safe and joyous phase for children. But with the ensuing COVID pandemic, whatever progress was made in child rights, child mortality, neo natal care, maternal care, schooling, etc., is now reversed. This is very unfortunate. 

Some specific things which I can see from staying at home during the pandemic are that mid day meals which were offered in school are no more available. That was the only reason some children went to the school, so not only are they not coming to school to eat, but they are also not being educated. Not all schools or children have the ability/privilege to study from home. Children below the poverty line are unable to buy gadgets to study from home and access online classes. 

Some schools also do not have this ability. Schools being shut also means there are no safe space for kids to escape domestic violence and child protection services are non-functional or semi-functional during the pandemic and with this huge population, not all can avail all services. I just wish, the schools find a safe and reasonable way to reopen, with medical precaution and education for social distancing, as schools are a haven for children in India. Food, education, escape! 

Also, because of COVID services of Anganwadis workers are unavailable. So essentially newborn and mothers have nowhere to go for their basic facilities. And it would not take just the 5 or 10 years to redo all this progress. It might need a whole new mindset to rise up! We have gone back at least a decade in the last 6 months!” – World Mom, Purnima Ramakrishnan of India

Conclusion

The feedback from the World Moms is quite worrying for children because the most recent data used by the 2020 Global Childhood Report is from 2019, which was prior to the impact on children from the COVID-19 pandemic. World Mom and RESULTS member, Yolanda Gordon in the USA stated, “After talking with some folks in the know and looking over some information, even the numbers that will come out with the US Census numbers this year will be based on the numbers from last year. We may see an improvement in the reports for this year, but the following year’s reported data will look different.” So, we may not see the full effects of the pandemic until 2 years out when 2020 data is fully reported. 

In conclusion, not only is it important that Save the Children compiles this information to see where childhood is stronger and weaker on an annual basis, this year’s report becomes an important baseline to measure the impact that the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world’s children this year and the years to come as the data comes in year after year. Then, we will be more easily able to identify the countries and areas on the globe where children were most affected by the pandemic and target programs in those places to help secure a better childhood for the world’s children. 

So where does your country rank?  View Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report.

Read World Moms Network’s post from last year on the 2019 Global Childhood Report.

Jennifer Burden is the founder of World Moms Network from New Jersey, USA. She also sponsors a child through Save the Children.

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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