Cost of child maltreatment in Asia-Pacific tops $200 billion annually, reports UNICEF

2 June 2015

Child abuse and violence is costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific around $209 billion a year, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today in the first costing of child maltreatment in the region, revealing that “inaction about violence results in serious economic costs to countries and communities.”

“According to the study, the costs associated with emotional abuse are $65.9 billion, those associated with physical abuse are $39.6 billion, sexual abuse costs about $39.9 billion, neglect costs $32.4 billion, witnessing domestic violence costs $31 billion and death from maltreatment costs an estimated $500 million,” UNICEF said in a press release issued today on the study.

Among others, the study also found that: in lower middle income countries, 35 per cent of males have experienced physical abuse and 22 per cent of females have experienced sexual abuse; in high income countries, 42 per cent of females have experienced emotional abuse and 32 per cent of males have witnessed domestic violence; 25 per cent of mental disorders among males in low income countries are attributable to physical abuse during childhood; and 31 per cent of mental disorders among females in lower middle income countries are attributable to sexual abuse during childhood.

It also found that the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) lost due to child maltreatment is highest in upper middle income countries, at 3.45 per cent with the largest part (1.26 per cent) due to emotional abuse.

Additional research in Cambodia found that over 50 percent of children had experienced at least one form of violence before the age of 18, UNICEF said, noting that roughly a quarter of Cambodian children were emotionally abused and about five per cent experienced some form of sexual abuse.

“We all know that violence against children must stop because it is morally wrong. This research shows that inaction about violence results in serious economic costs to countries and communities,” said UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole said. “Governments need to take urgent action to address violence against children, both for the sake of the children themselves and for the wellbeing of future generations.”

UNICEF said the impact of child maltreatment include an added burden on already stretched health care systems, disability and death, and increased levels of violence and criminality.

“It is difficult for children who experience violence and abuse to grow up to be productive members of society, and their countries also risk losing the potential benefits to their communities these children might otherwise provide,” it said.

UNICEF is working with governments in the region to take action based on these findings, noting that all governments in the region have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which commits them to protect children from violence, abuse and maltreatment.

“All children have the right to live free from violence, which harms their physical and mental growth, and inhibits the growth of their society and economies,” emphasized Mr. Toole. “Violence against children often takes place behind closed doors but it is preventable when people come together and say loudly and clearly that this is not acceptable.”

 

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