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Urban inequities are dividing our young 'city-zens'

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

LSHTM research published as part of UNICEF report that highlights how cities are failing children

Urban poverty is excluding hundreds of millions of children from vital services, UNICEF warns in its flagship publication, State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World.

Carolyn Stephens of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was commissioned to conduct research in urban inequities as part of the UNICEF publication. Her findings have also just been published in the Journal of Urban Health.

The research highlights the divide between children from wealthy families who grow up in private enclaves and attend private schools and universities, in stark comparison to children living in poorer urban areas or on the streets.   This pattern is true now internationally, and in cities as diverse as London, Kolkata, Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta or Buenos Aires.

Dr Stephens states that in many circumstances, the only social contact these children will have with one another is through violent confrontation.

More than 50% of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, and this number is rapidly increasing, with two thirds of the world’s people expected to live in towns and cities by 2050. With such rapid population growth in urban areas, the research emphasises the importance of putting children at the heart of urban planning and giving them a voice in the policy arena that will see their needs being supported whilst preventing people in the same city from living in fear and isolation of each other. In some cities levels of intra-urban violence are so high that they rival death rates in war zones.   

Argentina-based Carolyn Stephens, Reader in Ecology and Global Health of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says: “It is essential that all levels of government, civil society groups and international agencies such as UNICEF, work with disadvantaged urban children and their families to make policy decisions.

“Cities will also be the key to social and environmental sustainability and urban young people are the future of our planet. The concept of citizenship originated in a city, and it is urban citizens, particularly our young City-zens, who will hold the key to supporting people to live in equity.”

(Image: Children playing in the street in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. Credit: Sarah Bandali.)

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