By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
While progress has been made to uplift the plight of Filipino children, a United Nations (UN)-led study showed that children remain deprived of their fundamental rights to life, proper nutrition and education.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday released a situation analysis of children in the Philippines, which pointed out that multiple and deep-rooted deprivations and vulnerabilities continue to impede the survival and development of Filipino kids.
Some of the compelling evidence of which include, 31 percent of children still live below the poverty line, with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) having the higher figure nationwide at 63 percent; mortality among children under 5 years old is still high in ARMM at 55 per 1,000 live births, which is still far from the goal of only 15 or less deaths among infants and 22 or lower for children under 5 years old; 2.85 million children aged 5-15 remain out of school; and two in three children are physically and psychologically abused.
The report also pointed out that the Philippine government failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals in these key areas during the target year of 2015.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova said more government initiatives are needed to properly address the situation of Filipino children.
“It is true that there is lack of initiatives undertaken by the government but we also recognize that some of the efforts are still fragmented specifically on the grassroots,” Relova admitted.
“With this report, we were able to identify the basic priorities and the gaps that we need to address in order for us to formulate policies specifically on how to focus our technical assistance to the local government units,” she said, adding that to have real convergence, it is necessary to “intensify the initiatives of the local government, as well as the other local government agencies that are working for the protection of children.”
“On our end, the DSWD is very much committed to delivering the protection of children on the policy level as well as those programs that are not yet devolved to the local government unit,” Relova said.
“In the Philippine Development Plan, we address the issue sectorally. We are looking at health, education, nutrition, and in each of this, there are gaps. The current Philippine Development Plan prioritizes and addresses these gaps by sectors,” National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Assistant Secretary Carlo Bernardo Abad Santos said.
“What is important about this report is the cross-cutting views across different sectors in terms of children’s health, nutrition, education and vulnerabilities. It will make intervention sharper and enhance the coordinative mechanisms across agencies handling children situation, especially when we review the Philippine Development Plan next year,” he added.
“Looking at it (the findings) individually, it might not be alarming but looking at everything across in terms of the gaps and vulnerabilities of children across different sectors, then it heightens the alarm on the current situation of children,” he also said
According to UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander, the situation analysis offers a framework for a wide range of issues affecting children which will guide them in supporting the Philippine government improve the systems and services to reach the children in need.
Sylwander said the UNICEF will be allocating US$112 million to fund programs on health, nutrition and water sanitation, education system, and social policy and child protection in the Philippines from 2019 to 2023.
“A big chunk of our budget for next year is in education because we need to focus on Mindanao, particularly on the ARMM, as the government is setting up a new system. But for now we are supporting the preschool system in Mindanao especially in ARMM,” Sylwander said.
“We are also looking at things like how the educational system provide 21st century skills for kids so that when they leave school they are actually employable. Many children in rural areas don’t have that possibility to go on tertiary education, making the official number of children out of school still high,” she added.
Sylwander said the UNICEF will be offering the technical expertise of “our child rights, child health, and water sanitation experts to support the Philippine national and local governments all over the Philippines, especially in Mindanao,” she added.