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Children represent hope for the future

Children at school at the refugee camp Saint Sauveur in Bangui, Central African Republic

Children and young people are the biggest popu­la­tion group by far in almost all de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. In some coun­tries up to 70 per cent of the popu­la­tion is younger than 25 years of age. These young people are a source of hope for the future for their coun­tries. It is they who will ul­ti­mate­ly de­ter­mine whether urgently needed social and political change can be realised.

Yet the rights of millions of children are violated and abused in a multitude of ways. In particular, extreme pov­er­ty, armed conflicts, poor governance, inadequate schooling and serious diseases such as malaria or aids, reduce the opportunities they have in life.

According to the World Bank and UNICEF, the United Nations children's organisation, in sub-Saharan Africa one in every ten children dies before reaching the age of five. Most of these children die as a result of easily avoidable and treatable diseases.

Around the world some 250,000 children are forced into serving as soldiers, about 168 million children have to work and about 57 million children of primary school age cannot go to school. More than 73 million young people worldwide are looking for work. Many more are underemployed or work in the informal sector – often under unacceptable conditions.

The increasing spread of HIV and AIDS means that the number of orphans and of households headed by children and young people is growing. In Af­rica alone almost 15 million children have lost one or both of their parents to an HIV-related illness. Many of these AIDS orphans live in extreme pov­er­ty.

These figures describe a vicious circle of pov­er­ty, dis­ad­vant­age, lack of prospects and frustration, with great potential for conflict. The social exclusion that these young children feel and experience often produces a greater inclination towards violence. It can be the breeding ground for criminal groups or armed conflicts.

All the world's coun­tries share a certain re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for this state of affairs and are called upon to help remedy the disastrous situ­a­tion that millions of children and young people face. Ensuring that the rights of children and young people are upheld is therefore a key concern of both in­ter­national and German de­vel­op­ment policy.

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