Article by Dr Lala Manners | 7 Sept 2015
How children’s bodies are perceived and valued – and the status afforded to childhood generally has a significant impact on a wide range of government policies in all countries. Environment, transport, housing, education and welfare initiatives will be affected directly by the priorities established by agencies engaged and involved with young children’s physical health and well-‐being.
Inevitably this varies greatly across continents – for some countries nutrition, vaccination, water, hygiene and medicine will be the focus – for others it is obesity prevention, access to outdoor play, sporting opportunities and physical activity as an aid to learning – for children growing up in war zones mental health and emotional well-‐being will highlighted.
On a macro level – children are physically affected and protected by the following global agreements :
1989 Governments worldwide adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Children were to be treated as ‘human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of passive objects of care and charity.’ These rights describe what a child needs to survive, grow and live up to their potential in the world. All agencies must work together to protect and ensure their physical and mental health
2000 Countries signed the EFA (Education For All) agreement -‐ pledging ‘to expand and improve comprehensive care and education’ for all children
2010 (reviewed 2015) – Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health created to ensure ‘universal access to essential health services and proven life-‐saving interventions’
Global initiatives agree that ECD (Early Childhood Development) is important – that ‘it is about the foundation for individual and societal progress that has an economic and social payback for all.’
However, globally investment in ECD is limited and is sourced mainly from health and/or education foundations. In developing countries less than 5% of government budgets are allocated to education and only 2% to health – on average 0.5% of funding is directed at young children.
Despite this, significant progress has been made in a relatively short time span. Childhood is no longer considered a period to be suffered and endured with no particular relevance to society apart from survival. It is now viewed as a critically important stage of human life that has a profound impact on the formation of functioning societies.