Monrovia- When the Liberian teenager Abraham Keita walked to the stage in the Hague to receive this year’s International Children’s peace prize, he took with him the hopes and dreams of millions of children in Liberia, Africa and the rest of the World. The face of Keita represents the hopes of many unheard kids in the unforgotten corners of the earth whose voices may never be heard. There are regions in parts of today’s world where children are being forced to bear arms as child soldiers, forced into early marriages to men twice their mothers’ ages and several others who go to bed hungry. Some children are being sold into sex slavery by human traffickers. These are scary realities of the vulnerabilities of today’s children.
The International Children’s Peace Prize, a prestigious award was previously given to Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who was shot in the head allegedly by the Taliban. Malala has gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The 17-year-old Abraham was presented with the award for demanding justice for child victims of violence and for successfully campaigning for the Liberian parliament to adopt the children’s law. Since its inception, the Children’s Peace Prize has grown to become the international recognition for children standing up for their rights and has inspired over one billion people worldwide, according to the International Business Times.
It is reported that since 2008, Abraham has played a prominent role in the Liberian Children’s Parliament, organising peaceful demonstrations and petitions, and lobbying successfully for children’s participation to be funded directly from the national budget. He also pushes for free quality primary and secondary education for all children.
While the road to ensuring the voices of children are heard, there are millions of children globally that are still dying of curable diseases, no access to safe drinking water, inadequate health facilities, no access to education, being conscripted as child soldiers and forced to early marriages.
According to the World Food Program, One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.
➢ One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
➢ 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.
➢ WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children.
UNICEF reports that Approximately 300,000 children are believed to be combatants in some thirty conflicts worldwide. Nearly half a million additional children serve in armies not currently at war, such that 40 percent of the world’s armed organizations have children in their ranks. War Child UK estimates that 40% of all child soldiers are girls. They are often used as non-combatant ‘wives’ (sex slaves) of the male combatants.
UNICEF defines child soldiers as “any child—boy or girl—under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity.”
Water aid estimates that Over 500,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That’s over 1,400 children a day.
Diarrhoea is the third biggest killer of children under five years old in Sub-Saharan Africa.
(Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012).
Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old worldwide.
(Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) 2012)
Every year, around 60 million children are born into homes without access to sanitation.
Beyond the pomp and pageantry that characterize the awarding of the International Children’s Peace Prize, it is hoped that Global Policy makers will ensure that every child in all the slums across today’s world have access to basic healthcare facilities, proper nutrition at birth, and ensured a place for the future. National leaders should ensure that policies at home don’t overlook the rights of children and their inclusion as tomorrow’s people is never underestimated.
May the dream of Abraham Keita, those before him and the many others to follow, continue to live on.
About the Author
Lekpele M. Nyamalon is a Liberian writer, poet, essayist and the founder of Africa’s Life- a nonprofit initiative dedicated to engaging youths through motivational speaking. He can be reached at [email protected]