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1.2bn children at risk of war, poverty, discrimination worldwide: Report

Children play in floodwaters after a heavy rainy season downpour as they seek to fill sandbags at the Dadaab refugee complex, in northeast Kenya, on April 17, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

An international non-governmental organization, Save the Children, has warned that more than half of the world’s children are at risk of poverty, conflict, or sexual discrimination.

The global aid charity announced on Wednesday that the findings were the outcome of a study that ranked 175 countries in terms of the threat of child labor, exclusion from education, child marriage, and early pregnancy.

Released ahead of the International Children’s Day on June 1, the study, entitled “Many Faces of Exclusion,” revealed that 1.2 billion children worldwide faced at least one of the three main threats. Some 153 million faced all of them.

Eight of the 10 countries that ranked the worst for children were in west and central Africa, with the greatest threat level in Niger, according to the aid group. By contrast, Singapore and Slovenia were classified as the countries with the lowest incidence of such problems.

“More than half the world’s children start their lives held back because they are a girl, because they are poor, or because they are growing up in a war zone,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the chief executive of the charity.

“Governments can and must do more to give every child the best possible start in life,” she added. “The fact that countries with similar levels of income deliver such different outcomes for children shows that policy, funding, and political commitment make a critical difference.”

The aid group’s survey also showed that the situation for children had improved in 95 out of 175 countries but deteriorated in some 40 others.

Some 20 countries, including South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan, were among the worst places for children, according to Save the Children.

In a February report, the global charity had said at least 357 million children — or one in six worldwide — were living in conflict zones and were at risk of death and violence.

“We are seeing a shocking increase in the number of children growing up in areas affected by conflict, and being exposed to the most serious forms of violence imaginable,” Save the Children said in a statement back then.

“Children are suffering things no child ever should, from sexual violence to being used as suicide bombers. Their homes, schools and playgrounds have become battlefields,” it said.

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