Odds stacked against indigenous children, UNICEF research shows

25 February 2004

Indigenous children have higher mortality rates and lower rates of school enrolment than other children, making them among the most marginalized people in the world, according to research released today by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

A report prepared by UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, found that the rights of indigenous children – whether rural or urban – are frequently denied or compromised.

The report noted that, compared to other children, indigenous children have higher mortality rates, lower vaccination rates, lower rates of school enrolment, higher rates of school drop-out and grade repetition, and inadequate protection in formal justice systems.

Indigenous children are more at risk of being used in human trafficking or suffering from sexual or labour exploitation, according to the report. They face cultural discrimination, loss of land and lower self-esteem because of the difficulties of integrating into the dominant culture.

UNICEF estimates there are 300 million indigenous adults and children around the world, with about half living in Asia and the next largest population in Latin America.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy called on the world to show more support for indigenous children, saying they had the potential to transform their own communities.

“If we are to achieve goals such as poverty reduction, education for all and an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, we must put all children – especially the most vulnerable children such as those in indigenous communities – at the centre of our efforts,” she said.

The UNICEF research said practical initiatives should focus on four areas: health and nutrition, education, protection and support, and participation in decision-making.

 

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