When it comes to health, education, and nutrition, kids in America could have it better. When it comes to their country’s future carbon emissions, they couldn’t have it much worse.
An extensive new report from the World Health Organisation, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and The Lancet has ranked the United States 39th on a new ‘child flourishing index’, and in the bottom ten on a global sustainability index.
Compared to other high-income countries and even some mid-income countries on the list, that’s a fairly poor effort.
The so-called ‘flourishing index’ was developed specifically for this report to determine whether children today are ‘surviving’ or ‘thriving’. It includes data from around the world on factors like maternal survival, basic health services, extreme poverty, education, growth and nutrition, protection from violence and reproductive freedom.
In the final rankings, which included 180 nations, Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands took out the top three spots, with France, Ireland and Denmark following behind.
Still, when it comes to the climate crisis, the authors argue absolutely no child is safe. Many of the nations ranked at the top of the flourishing index are also major emitters of greenhouse gases.
On the global sustainability index, for instance, Burundi, Chad and Somalia ranked first, second and third, while Norway, South Korea and the Netherlands ranked 156th, 166th and 160th respectively. The US ended up placing 173rd.
“I was hoping and thinking that at least some countries somewhere must be doing the right thing for children now and the right thing for children in the future,” said Stefan Peterson, chief of health at UNICEF, according to CNN “but I saw no country was in that ideal place and that quite surprised me.”
While it’s true that today in many ways kids have never had it so good, the benefits and rights they do have are not always shared equally. What’s more, we’re facing a dire global crisis, and it places what progress we have achieved at risk.
When it comes to ensuring our children’s future, the authors of the report think every country can do better to make our world healthier and cleaner. They say all countries should offer paid parental leave, free primary health care and basic access to healthy food, education and other social protection measures.
Yet in America, not all of those needs are assured. In fact, the authors note, the US is the only nation not to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
More well known is the fact that the US is also out of the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the fact that the country is one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases in the world.
“This report shows that the world’s decision makers are failing today’s children and youth: failing to protect their health, failing to protect their rights, and failing to protect their planet,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.
“This must be a wakeup call for countries to invest in child health and development, ensure their voices are heard, protect their rights, and build a future that is fit for children.”
The study was published in The Lancet.