We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

14 February 2007

Child well being

My internet home page is set to yahoo news, which is probably not the best thing for my mind. Most of the news is bad, as I have complained about in the past, but these past two days its been downright heartbreaking. I don't even have to read the story, the headlines are enough to send me to despair. Today I have learned that Unicef, the children's charity has released a report about child welfare in the richest countries of the world you can have a look at http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail.asp?news_id=890.
Not surprising, the UK is near the bottom in terms of putting children's welfare first. A somewhat local news story here in the past two days is that a two year old girl has been murdered in her home, possibly by her uncle. It is not pleasant and I don't want to write about the details. Its a tragedy that yet another child has been failed, has been unprotected, unloved. Its a tragedy that the man in question is only 19 years old, a life not yet lived, and yet possibly a life so heinous that one can't imagine the interiors of his mind. They say that child abductions and the like have not really increased over the years, just the publicity of them.. but this past year I can recall several 'sensational' cases where the children have been unsafe in their own homes. And generally, this is what the statistics bear out, unfortunately, its the people we know.

So this Unicef report measures and compares overall child well-being across six dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, peer and family relationships, behaviours and risks, and young people’s own subjective sense of their own well-being.

There are a total of 40 separate indicators of child well-being – from child safety & poverty, to educational achievement to drug abuse – are brought together in this overview to present a picture of the lives of children living in the richest countries of the world.

North-European countries dominate the top half of the table, with child well-being at its highest in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom of the ranking.

The UK ranks in the bottom third of the country rankings for five of the six dimensions, not encouraging at all. The US is in the bottom as well, and that doesn't really shock me frankly, but what I find troubling is the size of the country versus the size of Britain. If Britain is failing equally, then to my mind (not that scientifically oriented by the way) it is failing worse because it is that much smaller. It is so frustrating as well, being so close to Europe that they can not seem to learn from their better-off neighbors. Naturally no country has top marks in every category, and there is no Utopia to be found, but
I am still searching.

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