180 million children face bleaker prospects than their parents

20th November 2017

World Children’s Day activities in over 130 countries to provide platform for children to speak out about their concerns; advocate for children being left behind

In Ireland, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to participate in #KidsTakeOver

 *NOTE* Videos and photos of the below events can be downloaded here. UNICEF Ireland has photographs it can make available on request.

DUBLIN / NEW YORK, 20 November 2017 – Despite global progress, 1 in 12 children worldwide live in countries where their prospects today are worse than those of their parents, according to a UNICEF analysis conducted for World Children’s Day.

According to the analysis, 180 million children live in 37 countries where they are more likely to live in extreme poverty, be out of school, or be killed by violent death than children living in those countries were 20 years ago.

“While the last generation has seen vast, unprecedented gains in living standards for most of the world’s children, the fact that a forgotten minority of children have been excluded from this – through no fault of their own or those of their families – is a travesty” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy.

UNICEF is commemorating World Children’s Day, which marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with global children’s ‘take-overs’, high-profile events and other activations of children in over 130 countries to give children their own platform to help save children’s lives, fight for their rights and fulfil their potential.

“It is the hope of every parent, everywhere, to provide greater opportunities for their children than they themselves enjoyed when they were young. This World Children’s Day, we have to take stock of how many children are instead seeing opportunities narrow and their prospects diminish,” added Chandy.

Assessing children’s prospects in escaping extreme poverty, getting a basic education and avoiding violent deaths, the UNICEF analysis reveals that:

“In a time of rapid technological change leading to huge gains in living standards, it is perverse that hundreds of millions are seeing living standards actually decline, creating a sense of injustice among them and failure among those entrusted with their care,” said Chandy. “No wonder they feel their voices are unheard and their futures uncertain.”

World Children’s Day is a day ‘for children, by children’, when children from around the world will be taking over key roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment to express their concerns about what global leaders should be focusing on, and to voice support for the millions of their peers who are facing a less hopeful future.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s office will be one of those taken over by a young person today, as part of UNICEF’s global #KidsTakeOver initiative. Joella Dhlamini (16), from Drogheda, Co. Louth and originally of Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, was chosen by UNICEF to represent the views of the children of Ireland after she entered a competition to describe the one change for children she would like to see in her community, nation, or World. Joella wrote movingly about the racist abuse she and her family have encountered since moving to Ireland three years ago*.

UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power said: “Today is a celebration of children all over the world and of all the progress we have made on children’s rights, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the plight of children who are in difficult circumstances.

UNICEF works ‘For Every Child’, and that means both here at home in Ireland, as well as in all the 190 countries we work in worldwide. In Ireland we are extremely fortunate to have access to the highest levels of Government, to the Taoiseach himself. Our wonderful #KidsTakeOver candidate Joella Dhlamini will use the opportunity to tell Mr. Varadkar about the concerns young people all over Ireland have expressed to us, as well as her own concerns about social inclusion. It is also an opportunity to focus on the needs of children living further afield, and to continue the fight to win children’s rights. In this way, and on this great day, we will lend our voice to the voices of children everywhere -helping them to win attention for their needs and rights.”

#KidsTakeOver winner Joella Dhlamini said: “This opportunity means the world to me. I want to see an end to racism in Ireland and I want to talk to the Taoiseach about how we could make that change happen. I also want to tell him about some of the other issues young people have told UNICEF they are worried about including climate change, poverty, disability, and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Mr. Varadkar will be joined in the #KidsTakeOver by other World leaders including Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, President of France Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister of Jordan Hani Al-Mulki and President of Chile Michelle Bachelet.

A separate UNICEF survey of children aged 9-18 in 14 countries also released today shows that children are deeply concerned about global issues affecting their peers and them personally, including violence, terrorism, conflict, climate change, unfair treatment of refugees and migrants, and poverty.

Key findings from the survey include:


Notes to Editors

*NOTE* Videos and photos of the below events can be downloaded here. UNICEF Ireland has photographs it can make available on request.

About Joella Dhlamini

Joella Dhlamini (16) lives in Drogheda, Co. Louth, with her Mum and Dad. She is a student at Our Lady’s College Greenhills.

Joella is from Soweto, Johannesburg, one of the biggest townships in South Africa. She first moved to Ireland at the age of two, before returning to South Africa at the age of 6. She made a permanent move to Ireland at the age of 13. Joella has two brothers who still live in South Africa.

The family moved to Ireland to escape violent crime, to access the best possible education for Joella, and for the career opportunities this country offers. In Ireland Joella says she and her parents have found the safe haven they were looking for but admits leaving everything she knew behind in South Africa and starting again was ‘really hard’. She considers herself lucky that the family’s decision did not come about because they had to flee persecution or war.

Joella describes a wonderful school experience in Drogheda, but says she is subjected to racist abuse on an almost daily basis while walking home from school. She says it was a shock when she first realised that not everybody in Ireland was as warm-hearted and accepting as those people she met in her new school. Joella says she had never experienced racism before moving to Ireland. She tries to follow her Mum’s advice that ‘an empty tin always makes noise’, and to just keep on walking.

Joella loves Ireland and sees her future here, despite the abuse she has suffered. She wants to

pursue a career in Law to fight against any injustice that people might be faced with.

About the data

The 37 countries in which prospects for children are declining in at least one key respect are: Benin, Bolivia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guatemala, Guyana, Guinea-Bissau, Jordan, Iraq, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Paraguay, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tonga, United Republic of Tanzania, Ukraine, Vanuatu. Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe. For additional details, click here.

For the survey, UNICEF worked with Kantar and Lightspeed to poll more than 11,000 children aged between 9 and 18 years old in 14 countries about their concerns and attitudes on global issues including bullying, conflict/war, poverty, terrorism and violence against children. The countries surveyed were: Brazil, India, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About World Children’s Day

More information on World Children’s Day, visit: https://www.unicef.org/world-childrens-day/


UNICEF is the United Nations’ organisation for children. It was established after World War II to help refugee children. Today UNICEF fights for children’s rights and promotes child well-being. UNICEF Ireland opened in 1962. It is funded by voluntary donations.

For more information, visit www.unicef.ie

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For more information, please contact:

Aedin Donnelly, Communications and Media Manager for UNICEF Ireland | aedin@unicef.ie | Tel: +353 1 809 0281 | Mob: +353 85 1395272

Georgina Thompson, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 238 1559, gthompson@unicef.org

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