KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 — Children enjoy better well being and survival in Singapore than in Malaysia, but Malaysia ranked higher than other Southeast Asian countries, a new report found.
However, both Singapore and Malaysia are among the world’s worst emitters of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming and directly affects children, according to the newly released “A Future for the World’s Children?” report endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Unicef.
The report compared performance on “child flourishing”, including measures of child survival and well-being, such as health, education, and nutrition; sustainability, with a proxy for greenhouse gas emissions; and equity, or income gaps.
It ranked 180 countries according to a new national profile to measure the foundational conditions for children aged 0 to 18 years to “survive” and “thrive”. Singapore was placed 12th, higher than Malaysia’s 44th ranking.
Norway, South Korea, and the Netherlands were first, second, and third best, followed by France, Ireland, Denmark, Japan, Belgium, Iceland, and the United Kingdom, while African countries dominated the bottom of the list.
Malaysia and Singapore were the only two Southeast Asian countries to make it to the top 50 countries. Vietnam was at 58th place, followed by Thailand (64), the Philippines (110), Cambodia (114), Indonesia (117), Myanmar (120), Timor-Leste (135), and Laos (137).
However, no country is adequately protecting children’s health, their environment and their futures, according to the commission of over 40 child and adolescent health experts, convened by the WHO, Unicef, and general medical journal The Lancet.
Even those high-income countries such as Norway, South Korea, and the Netherlands, still have room for improvement on child thriving, the report stated.
It also found that the health and future of every child and adolescent worldwide is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change, and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily processed fast food, sugary drinks, alcohol, and tobacco at children.
The report gave a “flourishing” score out of 1 as geometric mean of “surviving” and “thriving”. Malaysia earned a 0.81 flourishing score, and a 0.9 and 0.73 scores for surviving and thriving respectively. In comparison, Singapore’s flourishing score was 0.92. The island republic also earned a 1 and 0.85 scores for surviving and thriving.
For surviving, maternal survival, survival in children younger than five, suicide, access to maternal and child health services, basic hygiene and sanitation, and lack of extreme poverty, were studied. While for thriving, the domains were educational achievement, growth and nutrition, reproductive freedom, and protection from violence. School education was also included.
The report further noted that Malaysia and Japan have the highest proportion of children living with two parents in Asia, as well as the lowest proportion of children younger than 18 years with a household head who holds a secondary education.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is the 151st most sustainable country in the list, producing 197 per cent excess carbon dioxide emissions relative to 2030 targets, the report found. Singapore was in 164th place, and estimated to produce 319 per cent excess carbon dioxide emissions. Qatar was at the bottom of the list.
Most countries that fared well for child flourishing also did poorly for sustainability — Norway, South Korea, and the Netherlands, top in the list for child flourishing, are 156th (Norway), 166th (South Korea), and 160th (the Netherlands) on the global sustainability list.
African nation Burundi was at the top of the list, followed by Chad, Somalia, Congo, the Central African Republic, Malawi, Rwanda, Mali, Niger, and Madagascar. Southeast Asean countries and their ranks are as follows: Laos (24), Myanmar (36), Cambodia (38), the Philippines (64), Indonesia (78), Vietnam (85), and Thailand (122).
The rising of the earth’s temperature due to climate change will see devastating health consequences due to disruption of water and ecosystems, rising ocean levels, inundation of coastal cities and small island nations, increased mortality from heatwaves, and a crisis of malnutrition because of disruption to food production systems.
Both the 2015 Paris agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have called on governments to restrict warming to below 1·5°C. Achieving this will require substantial changes to global economic, political, and social systems, the report found.
The report’s authors hoped that its child flourishing index will serve as a first step in the process of raising awareness regarding the need to measure and promote conditions fundamental to child well being, noting that it had data limitations.