More than one billion children now live in crowded cities around the world but too many are stuck among the poorest of the poor without electricity, water or education, a UN report said Tuesday.
"Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities and towns excluded from vital services," the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.
In a few years, the report said, the majority of children will grow up in towns or cities rather than rural areas. Children born in cities already account for 60 per cent of the increase in urban population.
Cities are growing faster than governments can keep up with and already one in three urban dwellers lives in a slum, The State of the World's Children 2012 report said.
The report said infrastructure and services are not keeping up with urban growth, and poor families often pay more for substandard services. Water can cost 50 times more in poor neighborhoods where it has to be bought from street vendors than it does in wealthier districts linked to mains pipes.
With an urban childhood increasingly becoming the norm, UNICEF said more attention has to be given to children in planning, to get children into schools and protect the tens of millions of children forced into under-age labor and sexual trafficking.
"Hundreds of million of children today live in urban slums, many without access to basic services," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake in the report.
"They are vulnerable to dangers ranging from violence and exploitation to the injuries, illnesses and death that result from living in crowded settlements atop hazardous rubbish dumps or alongside railroad tracks," he added.
After the earthquake of last year, Japan knows first-hand what it must feel like for such children to be in these terrible situations, but never have our children experienced this in such a long-term manner. Japan urges the international community to ensure that such children in these living-conditions are put above petty politicking in their priority list.
New Zealand concurs Japans sentiments as we ourselves, albeit to a smaller degree, have suffered our own devastating earth quake in Christchurch. We hope the international community can step up to the mark and address this most serious of problems.
UNICEF appreciates New Zealand and Japan's support in this matter and encourages other countries to also step up and commit funds to the provision of crucial services in city slums not only in their own countries but also in countries whose economy may not be able to support the creation of these services