MANILA, Philippines – Used to be, the stereotype image of the batang probinsiyano (rural child) is a poor child dressed up in rugs toiling in the farm and the city kid is the well-off one in stylish clothes and studying in a high-quality school. That image, however, is changing as cities may be failing children, a latest UNICEF study warns.
Urbanization has been leaving hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns, deprived from vital services such as proper nutrition, potable water, and education, UNICEF says in The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World. The report, published in book form, is currently being launched worldwide.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 49% of the Philippine population lives in cities (45.6 million), but it is projected that by 2030, up to 77% will be residing in urban areas due mainly by the rural-urban migration trend.
There are about 32 highly urbanized cities with the most populated area being Metro Manila with 11,547,959 people.
At the book’s media launching held Tuesday morning in Quezon City, Dr. Abdul Alim, UNICEF Deputy Representative, revealed that while urbanization may mean more access to facilities like playgrounds, more schools, museums, and parks, it also means an increasing difference between children from well-off families to those who live in poverty.
The figures are alarming. Of the 37 million Filipino children, the UNICEF cites that 13.5 million live in poverty; 240,000 are street children; 300,000 displaced by armed conflict; 50% of Grade One students have no prior learning experience; 6 out of 10 children finish elementary; 4 out of 10 children will enter high school; 4 million are child laborers; and 100,000 are victims of sex trafficking or sexual violation.
For poor urban families, raising children has become a test of daily survival especially with challenges like inadequate social services, lack of urban housing, and environmental problems like air pollution, solid waste collection, and calamities. Add to these are specific urban challenges such as HIV transmission. The UNICEF study cites that more than 50% of all 2011 HIV infections were registered in Metro Manila. One out of three newly reported cases involves young people aged between 15 to 24 years old. The report surmises that the youth are becoming more vulnerable because of lack of information.
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