Cities for Children and Youth by the Global Alliance – Cities 4 Children

The Research Series: Cities for Children and Youth is published by the Global Alliance – Cities 4 Children. This series will include publications reflecting on a range of issues faced by urban children and youth and will shed light on promising initiatives and practices for sustained change. The series aims to inspire action, add to knowledge, improve program/project design and advocate for children’s and young people’s rights in the urban agenda. It is aimed at practitioners, policymakers, government officials, researchers, and advocates for better cities for children and youth and will include a range of publications:

  • Evidence to action briefs: These will be short research summaries about different topics that are important to address when thinking about child rights and the well-being of children and young people in urban contexts.
  • Case studies of success from different urban contexts to inspire change and action
    Country/city reports about the situation of children in urban areas
  • Practical tools to work with children and young people to encourage their participation, better understand their needs, and support their contributions in the urban context.
Cities for Children: An Overview of Relevant Issues:

Child poverty and the violation of children’s rights are increasingly urban phenomena. An estimated billion people live in overcrowded, inadequate housing without basic services or secure tenure. More than a third are children and adolescents, living in conditions that challenge their rights, wellbeing, and long-term prospects. Yet urban children have surprisingly few global champions, and can often be overlooked in more general agendas. This briefing provides an introduction to the status of children in urban areas, focusing on the most marginalised and deprived children and the range of issues they face, including the impacts of migration, poverty, hunger, conflict, disease and vulnerability to disaster. But it also highlights the opportunities to manage urbanisation better so that children and adolescents in cities can survive, learn, contribute and thrive.

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Urban Children and Malnutrition:

This evidence into action brief summarises the state of research on the topic of urban children and malnutrition, and proposes ideas for action.

Child malnutrition is the result of poor health, inadequate diets, suboptimal caregiving practices and unsanitary environments. While on average urban children are less likely to suffer from malnutrition than rural children, data shows that the opposite is true for urban children living in poverty. In high-density low-income neighbourhoods, inadequate housing and infrastructure, limited access to basic services and exposure to environmental hazards are major factors that, combined with low and irregular earnings, contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition. Practical action needs to consider and address these context-specific multiple challenges. NGOs can contribute to the successful design and delivery of interventions by supporting the capacity of grassroots organisations of the urban poor and local governments and in so doing ensure that initiatives have the long-term horizon essential to achieve change. This includes:

  • Collecting and analysing data reflecting household, settlement and city-level circumstances, along with local beliefs, to identify community needs and priorities and inform effective and preventative responses to malnutrition.
  • Ensuring that nutritional interventions are context-specific and include understanding and supporting the role of informal markets and vendors on which the urban poor rely.
  • Ensuring that urban caregivers’ time poverty is addressed, including through the provision of childcare facilities.
  • Integrating environmental health in any action plan, including water and sanitation, solid waste management and surface drainage, with special attention to emerging climate related environmental hazards.

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COVID-19 and Children in Urban Contexts:

This evidence into action brief summarises the state of research on the topic of urban children and COVID-19, and proposes ideas for action.

Across the world, public and political attention is firmly focused on recovery from COVID-19. But it is vital that we build back better. The pandemic has compounded problems caused by existing structural inequalities of poverty, inadequate housing and economic exclusion for those living in urban informal settlements in the global South – problems which have hit children particularly hard. With an end to the pandemic uncertain, this briefing aims to provide some insights into the current consequences and risks for urban children and youth in terms of impact on health, income and education and the importance of safe play and public space. It highlights local solutions and good practice and demonstrates how, in the context of limited government support for the urban poor, grassroots organisations and collective community action have attempted to fill the gaps and used existing networks to support families affected by the pandemic. These experiences provide important lessons for partnership approaches to tackling child poverty that go beyond the pandemic to inform how collaboration can help address complex urban poverty challenges.

  • Policymakers should strengthen partnerships with NGOs and organised communities to improve access to healthcare and health education. Infant and early childhood immunisation initiatives should be accelerated, prioritising children living in informal urban settlements.
  • NGOs should support social and livelihood protection schemes, working with governments, communities and the private sector. Secure employment and trading rights in cities can also help to stabilise incomes for the lowest-paid workers.
  • NGOs should invest in targeted local education provision and better internet connectivity and access to digital devices to improve learning for children and youth in slum settlements. Local governments should use conditional cash transfers to remove financial barriers to education for children in poor households.
  • Children in cities need safe living environments and safe spaces for play. NGOs and governments should work collaboratively with communities and community-based organisations to improve urban design and environments.

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