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The world is missing data on children who live without parental care

By Boyd McBride      

As a member country, Canada has an opportunity to prompt the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators to recognize the severity of this issue.

Twin sisters from the SOS Children’s Village in Louga, Senegal. Photo courtesy of Claire Ladavicius, SOS Children’s Villages

In September 2015, Canada and other UN Member States agreed to a principled and ambitious 15-year global development agenda. Key parts of this are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that touch on child outcomes. Oddly, however, we don’t really know how many children the global community has agreed to focus on.

This weekend marked Universal Children’s Day, a great time to reflect upon the welfare of children worldwide, and particularly on the welfare of ‘vulnerable children’: children without parental care. It is these children who so desperately need the protection and support that should come out of the global commitment to the SDGs.

How many children are we talking about? SOS Children’s Villages, one of the world’s leading child welfare organizations, estimates that approximately 10 per cent of the world’s children are growing up without appropriate parental care. This is a staggering 220 million children.

SOS Children’s Villages believes that no child should grow up alone. No young girl or boy should have to face life’s challenges alone. No child should be forced to sleep on the street, go hungry, or get sick simply because he or she does not have access to adequate food or basic healthcare.

Unfortunately, there is currently no global or national data on exactly how many children are without parental care,  or are living in institutions. There is a very real danger that this lack of data will result in the special needs of these children being overlooked, and will increase their already enormous vulnerability.

To raise awareness of this issue, SOS Children’s Villages and 175 other civil society organizations have signed an open letter to National Statistical Offices, members of the UN Statistical Commission, the Inter-Agency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, and the UN Statistical Division. It draws attention to this gap, and urges that it be addressed, resolved, and acknowledged by the IAEG so that all children living without parental care can be represented among the data that is used as an indicator to meet SDGs.

The time to act is now. As a member country, Canada has an opportunity to prompt the IAEG to recognize the severity of this issue. We must work collaboratively with our partners, both domestically and internationally, to find real solutions that will ensure that vulnerable children here and around the world are not deprived of a childhood.

If real action is not taken to properly implement, monitor, and evaluate these SDGs, children and young people affected by extreme poverty, malnutrition, and limited access to education and basic services, are more likely to experience continued violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect, and we will fail to reach the most vulnerable. Meeting our new global commitment starts with good data.

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