U.S. Unveils Plan to Assist Children Facing Adversity
By Kathryn McConnell | Staff Writer | 20 December 2012
The U.S. plan to assist vulnerable children aims to increase families’ capacity to feed, educate and nurture their children.
Washington — Achieving a world where all children survive, grow up with
protective family care and are free from deprivation, exploitation and danger is
the goal of a new blueprint for U.S. international assistance.
The five-year plan, introduced December 19 at the White House, is the latest
step in the ongoing U.S. effort to improve the lives of children worldwide. In
June, the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) joined the United
Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the governments of Ethiopia and India in an
event called “Child Survival Call to Action,” designed to accelerate progress on
newborn, child and maternal survival. To date, 168 countries have signed on to
USAID will implement the new plan with the departments of State, Labor,
Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Defense, along with the Peace Corps
and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR,) in more than 100
More than 100 civil society and faith-based organizations endorsed the plan.
A public-private partnership is being formed to mobilize resources to meet its
objectives, USAID says.
Research shows that children who experience violence or are exploited,
abandoned, abused or severely neglected face significant threats to their
survival and to their social and economic well-being, USAID says. Children in
adversity do not have protective family care, or they live in abusive
households, on the streets or in institutions. They are trafficked, participate
in armed groups or are exploited for labor. Others face risks from extreme
poverty, disease, disability or disaster, USAID says.
“The science is clear. Childhood experiences shape adult outcomes, including
long-term health, cognitive development, academic achievement and one’s ability
to be gainfully and safely employed,” said Neil Boothby, U.S. government special
adviser on children in adversity.
The five-year plan says evidence shows that nations that invest in their
children have promising futures.
Thirty percent of the world’s children do not reach their developmental
potential because of poverty, disease, conflict and disaster, according to
USAID. “If we are serious about change, really breaking through cycles of
poverty and inequality, we must start early,” Boothby said.
The plan seeks to build strong beginnings by strengthening child welfare and
protection systems, putting family care first, and protecting children from
domestic and sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. The plan aims to
significantly reduce the number of children living outside of family care;
increase families’ capacity to feed, educate, nurture and protect their
children; and increase the number of children meeting age-appropriate growth and
The plan states that past efforts to assist vulnerable children in low- and
middle-income countries focused on single vulnerabilities — such as being
affected by HIV/AIDS, or being in an emergency, child labor or trafficking
situation. “Coordinated, multifaceted action can help ensure that children in
adversity benefit fully from polices and services,” it says.
In 2010, the United States joined governments, international organizations,
civil society groups and private sector companies to create a global commitment
to improve child nutrition during the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s
pregnancy through the child's second year, a period that is critical to a
child’s ability to thrive for a lifetime.
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