Thursday, November 18, 2010

Children: Global Survey of Children in Developing Nations Finds Them Hungry to Learn - and Just Plain Hungry

Most 10- to 12-year-olds in developing nations say that, if they were president of their country, their first order of business would be to provide education to all children by improving their schools or building more of them. One in three goes to bed hungry at least one night a week. More than one quarter work half a day outside of school each day. And for many, their greatest fear is snakes.

The findings are part of an ambitious multinational survey of children in developing nations. The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey polled close to 3,000 children ages 10 to 12 in 30 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Americas – from Afghanistan to Zambia. The results are being released in concert with the United Nations' Universal Children's Day on November 20.

The survey was sponsored and conducted in the field by ChildFund Alliance, a global alliance of child development organizations, and compiled and tabulated by Ipsos Observer, an international research company. The survey is the first of its kind for the Alliance, whose roots extend back more than 70 years.

"Our mission is to improve the lives of children in poverty around the world – a mission that starts with listening to the smallest voices among us," said Anne Lynam Goddard, president and CEO of ChildFund International, the U.S. member of the global alliance. "While our broader efforts take place on a community level, organizing and empowering communities so that they can sustain their own development, we at ChildFund are particularly attentive to the needs of children. This survey serves to amplify their voices so that we can direct our work in the most appropriate way."

The survey found an overwhelming sentiment among the world's poorest children toward improving their lives through education. More than half of those surveyed (57%) said that, were they the president of their country, they would educate all children, improve the quality of schools and/or construct more of them. When asked what they need most in their lives, one in three (34%) said more or better education.

While most children are hungry to learn, the survey found that a great many of them are just plain hungry. When asked what they need most, one in three (33%) said food. To the question, "what would you spend a dollar on?" almost half (45%) said food and/or water. As president, one in five (19%) said they would help people get food. The emphasis on food is understandable given this finding: one in three children (32%) say they go to bed hungry at least once a week.

The survey also sought to quantify the amount of time children throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas work outside of school. Twenty-six percent of the boys and girls surveyed said that they spend at least half a day each day working on household chores or other work.

To the question of what they fear most, there were a broad range of answers, some reflecting their youth and others the inherent dangers within their daily lives. Three in 10 (30%) said that were most afraid of animals, with snakes (15%) topping the list. Almost one-fifth (20%) said they feared death and/or disease, and 15 percent said they were fearful of falling victim to war or violence.

U.S.-based ChildFund International also works with children living in poverty in the United States. A sampling of those children also participated in the survey, and their responses were largely similar to the answers from children around the world. American 10-to-12-year-olds also put improving education atop their list of presidential priorities (31%) and a similar percentage (29%) said that what they needed most was food. Fifty-five percent said that, given a dollar, they would spend it on food. Like other children around the world, they most fear animals.

The biggest departure from the global results was in the amount of time U.S. children spend working beyond their school work. While one in 10 American children (11%) spend at least half of each day at work, the percentage of children in developing nations who do so is more than double (26%).

"The voices of these children may be small but their words should resonate around the world," Goddard said. "As perhaps only children can do, they deliver an honest and unvarnished sense of what it is like to be young and living in poverty. And what this survey makes clear is that, irrespective of their country, such children around the world share a common sentiment, attuned in a chorus of hardship and hope."

ChildFund International, formerly named Christian Children's Fund, is a global child development and protection agency serving more than 15.2 million children and their family members in 31 countries.

SOURCE ChildFund International