A flagship report of the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, have found that Gambia’s urban children are facing some of the greatest inequalities and are most vulnerable to infections and diseases.
Such a situation is synonymous to developing countries like Gambia where some urban children in cities and towns are grossly excluded from vital services.
The report “The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World” published by UNICEF in February this year, was launched on June 5, 2012 by the agency’s country office in The Gambia at Kotu Quarry, a slum-dwelling in the Kanifing Municipality, Gambia’s Serrekunda West district.
“We know that you are among the most vulnerable children in urban Gambia,” UNICEF country representative in Gambia, Mrs. Aichatou Diawara Flambert told the children of Kotu Quarry, where in 2011, the Gambia Government evicted people it said were living in “squatters.”
“We know that you are at high risk of catching infections and diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, from the unclean environment you live in,” Mrs. Flambert said. “Many of you do not go to school and do not enjoy your basic right to education.”
She admitted that most of the children residing at the Kotu Quarry were not registered at birth. She lamented that with no proof of age and identity, they may lack the basic protection against abuse and exploitation such as child labour, intensive domestic work, child trafficking, early marriage and prosecution as an adult.
The danger of losing your homes to erosion and mudslides around the Quarry is also a reality for some of you, she added, before noting that the problems faced by these vulnerable children on a daily basis is real for them, their parents and community.
In order to address the vulnerability of these children and address that gap of gross inequality among children in the country, Mrs. Flambert stressed that “We must ensure that children are placed at the heart of urban planning so as to provide improved services for all.”
“The children of Kotu Quarry are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children of the country,” admits Mr. Yankuba Colley, Mayor of Kanifing Municipality, who added that “They are usually deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive.”
Mayor Colley argues that excluding the children of the Quarry not only rob them of the chance to reach their full potential, but also rob their societies of the economic benefit of having a well educated and healthy urban population.
UNICEF’s “The State of the World’s Children Report 2012” outlines a five point plan for least developed countries like Gambia to adopt for building an equitable approach to children in urban settings.
These includes understanding urban poverty and inclusion by removing away statistical averages and securing better data and analysis required to identify how poverty and exclusion affects children in urban areas;
Remove the barriers to inclusion by strengthening urban planning, infrastructure development and broader efforts to reduce poverty and inequality among children;
Put children first by placing a sharp focus on their particular needs in urban planning, infrastructure and governance; Promote partnership with the urban poor through initiatives that enable communities, and in particular children and young people to influence urban policy, planning and services; and
Work together to achieve results for children at the international, national, municipal and community level by consolidating resources and energies to ensure that children living in the deepest poverty and on the margins of society enjoy their full rights in every urban community.
Written by Modou S. Joof
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