In the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of impoverished urban children are growing up in squalor, deprived of education and healthcare.
Almost half the country’s population – including 18 million children under the age of 18 – are now living in towns and cities, making the Philippines one of the most urbanized populations in Southeast Asia, UNICEF said.
By 2030 it is projected three out of four people in the Philippines could be living in urban areas.
Despite the perception that cities are “engines of growth,” many of these children live in unsafe and insecure houses and lack access to schooling, water and sanitation, UNICEF said.
“UNICEF is very concerned about children living in the poorest, urban areas because research shows that they suffer from multiple deprivations, and are increasingly worse off than those living in rural poor settings,” Dr. Abdul Alim, deputy representative of UNICEF in Philippines said.
“Urban poverty can trap children in a downward spiral of poverty and squalor, leading to sickness, neglect and risk of exploitation,” he added.
POOR IN BOTH URBAN AND RURAL AREAS
In Metro Manila, the most populated area, an estimated 2.0 million children live in slums.
UNICEF said 54 percent of people living in these informal settlements have no access to safe water and 51 percent no access to toilets, worse than any other urban or rural areas.
While children born in urban areas in the Philippines have slightly better chances of surviving than those in rural areas (20 deaths per 1,000 live births in urban areas compared to 35 in rural areas), they fare worse in some ways.
For example, poor urban children are less likely to be breastfed than those in rural regions (83 percent versus 92 percent), UNICEF said, increasing the risk of malnutrition. Those who are breastfed are also likely to be nursed for a shorter time in urban areas (seven months versus 17 months), the agency added.
Metro Manila has the highest number of children facing severe deprivation of shelter (over 78,400), followed by Central Luzon (more than 43,500), Southern Tagalog (over 37,000), Bicol (26,500-plus), and Central Visayas (more than 20,100).