A New Path to Help All Children
By Janti Soeripto, President and CEO
Pandemics, conflicts and economic downturns have tested us before. Yet we find ourselves in truly unprecedented times. Never before has the world faced the lethal convergence of a global pandemic, raging regional conflict, disrupted economic growth and soaring inequality, racial inequities, a climate crisis, and demagogues with the ability to spread harmful messages instantaneously through social media. These challenges are felt in the U.S. and countries around the world. As is so often the case, children are the least responsible and yet the most negatively affected.
But just as we face a moment of historic challenges, a new Administration, Congress, and elected officials at state and local levels create a moment of great opportunity for new, far-sighted leadership. Simply put, the country will not fully recover from the pandemic and move forward unless we place children at the center of the plan.
Getting millions of kids back in school and opening child care centers so that children can learn and parents can work is vital. An estimated 60 percent of child care programs are currently closed. Equally important and eminently within our grasp is addressing the growing hunger crisis. Every night, in the richest country in the world, 50 million people, including 17 million children are going to bed without enough nutritious food to eat. That is wrong and must be fixed.
Issues that go to what the country stands for at its core and will shape our path for decades to come also require urgent action. Leaders need to develop and act on plans to humanely protect families seeking help on the U.S. southern border. They must address systemic racism and inequities that hold Black and Hispanic children back generation after generation. And this must be the decade that we tackle climate change before it is truly too late. Americans cannot prosper if our planet remains at risk.
The new Administration and Congress must also turn their attention to the world’s children, whose future are intertwined with and affect our own. Over the last two decades, U.S. leadership has contributed to reducing poverty, increasing access to quality learning, improving health for women and children, and saving lives during horrific humanitarian crises. Yet today, U.S. credibility and leadership in the world is in jeopardy to the detriment of American interests and global progress. The U.S is now absent from major international forums including the most recent global health summit where leaders gathered to accelerate research and development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
President Biden and his cabinet have an opportunity – indeed an obligation – to reverse course and renew U.S. global leadership and partnership. America can and should be a champion of gender equality and girls' rights. It should return to showing leadership for refugees and can contribute to ending the conflict in Yemen that is causing children to starve to death and be killed by U.S.-made weapons. With just ten years left for the world to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, now is the time to provide robust investments in programs impacting children around the world, thus creating a more hopeful future for Americans as well.
To help address these urgent challenges, Save the Children has created “Prioritizing the World’s Children: A Playbook for Leaders,” highlighting nine issues that need focused attention at all levels of government to ensure children in the U.S. and around the world are invested in and prioritized. Each essay contains concrete steps that leaders must address as soon as they are sworn in. At their core, none of these are partisan issues, they are human issues and shape the kind of world our children will inherit. The time to act is now.
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