Tue | Dec 7, 2021

Still failing our children

Published:Sunday | July 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Lisa Hanna (right), minister of youth and culture, in discussion with Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, during a recent visit to Jamaica by the UN executive. - File

Newly released findings of a comprehensive United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) survey show that while much has been done to improve the lot of Jamaica's children, much more still needs to be done.

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) is an international household survey carried out globally by UNICEF and was conducted by Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) in 2011.

The MICS provides up-to-date information on key indicators for countries to measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and other commitments.

The Jamaica survey measured a wide range of issues affecting children and their families, including health, education and protection.

The survey also gauged how children are faring across income brackets, from the poorest to the richest Jamaican households.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Early-childhood development: Engagement of fathers in early learning is low across all households. Less than 30 per cent of fathers of children ages 3-5 are engaged in activities that support learning. Children in the poorest households are three times less likely to have their father engaged.
  • Child protection: Eight out of 10 children ages 2-14 experience some form of violent discipline. Boys, children from poorer households and children in rural communities are the most likely to be subjected to violent discipline.
  • Reproductive health: 20-24-year-olds in the poorest households are 10 times more likely to have a child before age 18 than those in the richest households.
  • National exclusive breastfeeding rates of children ages 0-5 have increased - from 15.2 per cent recorded in the MICS 2005 survey, to 23.8 per cent. However, only two out of 10 children are exclusively breastfed during their first five months. The survey also found that the time spent breastfeeding exclusively is too short as the average Jamaican mother will breastfeed exclusively for only three weeks.
  • In Jamaica, 86.1 per cent of children had received all vaccinations at the time of the survey. However, 79.8 per cent were fully vaccinated by 12 months. A higher percentage of children from rural areas had received all vaccinations (88.9 per cent) than those from urban areas (83.8 per cent).
  • More than 94 per cent of households in Jamaica use an improved water source. For 86.5 per cent of households, the drinking water source was on the premises. Across wealth quintiles, poorer quintiles were less likely to have water piped into their dwellings, yards or plots than those in richer households (65.9 per cent of households in the poorest quintile as opposed to 97.8 per cent in the richest).
  • Safe disposal of children's faeces occurred in approximately 28 per cent of all households. This low occurrence is due to the high use of disposable diapers by caretakers which are usually disposed of in the garbage (66.5 per cent). Whereas in the poorest quintile, 40.4 per cent of children's stool was disposed of safely, in the richest quintile, 28.1 per cent children's stool was disposed of safely.
  • Among children aged 36-59 months, 91.5 per cent were attending an early childhood institution; 93.8 per cent in rural areas and 87.9 per cent in the other towns.
  • In Jamaica, 57.8 per cent of the children aged 36-59 months were not living with their natural fathers. On average, 27.5 per cent of fathers were engaged in one or more activities with their children in the 36-59 months age group.
  • The net attendance ratio in Jamaica is high for both the primary and secondary level. 98 per cent of children of primary school age are attending primary school and 91.5 per cent of children of secondary school age are attending secondary school.