[Volunteer Voices] Investing in Children's Well-being

By: Volunteer Voices Published: 10/04/2024

By: Adil Mukhi (Results Volunteer)

As a society, we are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable members, and there are few groups more vulnerable than children. Yet, despite the progress we have made in many areas, millions of children worldwide still lack access to necessities such as adequate nutrition, essential vaccines, and quality education. This is not just a moral failing; it is also a missed opportunity for economic and social development.

The statistics regarding childhood malnutrition and lack of access to essential immunizations are staggering. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 149 million children under the age of 5 were estimated to be stunted (too short for their age) globally in 2022, while 45 million were estimated to be wasted (too thin for their height). Additionally, 37 million children were overweight or obese. These numbers paint a grim picture of the state of children's health around the world.

Furthermore, the lack of access to basic vaccines is a significant concern. In 2021, global immunization coverage for infants dropped to 81%, the lowest rate in over a decade. This decline has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 25 million children under the age of 1 year not receiving basic vaccines through routine immunization. The consequences of this lack of access are dire, with preventable diseases claiming the lives of millions of children each year.

Childhood malnutrition and lack of access to vaccines not only have immediate health implications but also long-term socio-economic consequences. Malnutrition can lead to stunted growth, cognitive impairment, and decreased immune function, affecting a child's ability to thrive and reach their full potential. Moreover, studies have shown that adults who were malnourished as children earn at least 20% less than those who were not, perpetuating cycles of poverty and inequality.

Investing in children's well-being is not only a moral imperative but also a smart economic strategy. Studies have consistently shown that every dollar invested in nutrition, immunization, and education yields significant returns in terms of improved health outcomes, increased productivity, and reduced healthcare costs. For example, according to the World Bank, every dollar invested in nutrition generates up to $138 in economic benefits.

Furthermore, investing in children's well-being is essential for achieving broader development goals, such as poverty reduction, economic growth, and social stability. Healthy children, educated, and well-nourished are more likely to succeed academically, contribute positively to their communities, and break the cycle of poverty. By investing in children today, we are investing in the future prosperity of our societies.

However, despite the clear benefits of investing in children's well-being, funding for programs and initiatives aimed at improving children's access to essential services remains inadequate, particularly in the context of a dedicated children's budget. In Canada, for instance, while the government has made commitments to increase its International Assistance Envelope (IAE) annually, there is a pressing need for more comprehensive action to ensure that these commitments are not only upheld but also bolstered to adequately address the root causes of childhood malnutrition and lack of access to vaccines. As advocates for children's rights and well-being, we recognize the urgency of the situation. We must call on the Canadian government to reaffirm its commitment to children's health and education by prioritizing the allocation of resources specifically dedicated to these critical areas, through the establishment of a robust children's budget, distinct from general aid allocations, with a targeted investment of CAD$600 million in 2024.

As citizens, we have a responsibility to hold our governments accountable and advocate for policies and initiatives that prioritize children's well-being. This includes calling on our elected representatives to fulfill their commitments to increase funding for programs aimed at improving children's access to nutrition, immunization, and education, both domestically and internationally.

Additionally, we must work together to raise awareness about the importance of investing in children's well-being and mobilize support for initiatives that address the underlying factors contributing to childhood malnutrition and lack of access to vaccines. By working together, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

In conclusion, investing in children's well-being is not only a moral imperative but also a smart investment strategy. By prioritizing investments in nutrition, immunization, and education, we can improve the health and well-being of children around the world, break the cycle of poverty and inequality, and build a more prosperous and equitable future for all. It is time for governments, civil society organizations, and individuals to come together and prioritize children's well-being as a fundamental human right and a cornerstone of sustainable development.

To make a difference sign the petition, talk to your MP and on social media: https://www.change.org/p/canada-keep-your-promise-sign-to-boost-funding-for-children-s-future

Volunteer Voices articles are penned by Results Canada volunteers, fellows, and staff. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Results Canada. Click here for more Volunteer Voices articles and learn how you can submit your letter to the editor (LTE) or op-ed.

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