No happy childhood here: 5 worst countries for kids to live in

Portugal is number one in the KidsRights Index which ranks how 165 countries adhere to and are equipped to improve children’s rights. Runners up in the 2017 top five are Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Spain. However, Chad, Vanuatu, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Central African Republic are at the bottom of the list.

Chad: Kids as instrument in terrorists’ hands

Child in hospital. Photo: Bardell Andreas / Aftonbladet / IBL / / FORUM

Terrorist group Boko Haram has been leading a systematic campaign of abduction that has forced thousands of girls and boys into their ranks. Boko Haram often uses them as suicide attackers. In the period of 2014 -2017, 117 children were involved in attacks. Even Local militias formed to protect their communities, who played a key role in stemming the tide of Boko Haram violence, used children in their operations as well.

Reintegrating the children who were abducted and held in captivity takes much time and effort as local communities often perceive them as terrorist collaborators, UNICEF reports.

Afghanistan: Violence dominates the narrative

Photo: Rahmat Alizadah / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire / FORUM

Everyday life for children in Afghanistan can be extremely daunting. According to UNICEF, armed conflict and insecurity resulted in 2,480 child casualties during the first three quarters of 2017 alone.

“For babies born in today’s Afghanistan, violence is just one of many hardships. The number of children that died before reaching their fifth birthday was 80,000 in 2017; four of five of these children did not survive the first year of life. Only 63 per cent of Afghan children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases. Those who survive their earliest years often do not thrive. Two of every five children (41 per cent) in the country are stunted and 1.2 million are malnourished,” the report reads.

Education, particularly for girls, is more of a privilege than a right, UNICEF stresses.

Sierra Leone: Child soldiers

REUTERS / Afolabi Sotunde / FORUM

In Sierra Leone, children are involved in armed conflicts as soldiers. There are cases when the eight-year olds were forced to take part in a war. The rebels came to the village and forcibly recruited children in their groups. They believe that if a child can carry a machine gun, they can go to war.

Sexual abuse against minors is also quite common in the country.

Vanuatu: Fire island

Evacuation after eruption. Photo REUTERS / Ben Bohane / FORUM

Vanuatu has not yet ratified a number of international human rights agreements. Discrimination against women leads to the fact that most of the children stay with fathers in case of divorce.

But the biggest threat to children in Vanuatu is nature. In the country, volcanoes erupt very often, which result in closing schools. Ashes pollute air and water, destroy crops and has a detrimental impact on people’s health. Women and children are the most vulnerable in such situations.

Central African Republic: death, violence and cold

REUTERS / Baz Ratner / FORUM

Conflict and instability in the Central African Republic have had a devastating impact on children.

In 2011-2015, the country task force documented the killing of 333 children (258 boys, 75 girls) and the maiming of 589 (452 boys, 137 girls), and these figures are believed to be ‘highly underestimated’. During the same period, total of 521 children (513 girls, 8 boys) were victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

The members of the UNICEF Working Group expressed concern about the fact that children continued to be recruited and used by armed groups, including by selfdefence militias. They noted with grave concern that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) remained responsible for violations and abuses committed against children, including the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other sexual violence and the abduction of children to serve as combatants, spies, sex slaves and porters.


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