Report: The Best and Worst Countries for Childhood Safety

 Paul D. Shinkman

Poverty, conflict and discrimination against girls affects more than half of all children worldwide, putting 150 million at extreme risk of the factors that cut short their childhood, according to a new survey.

The Second Annual "End of Childhood Report" released on Wednesday by the nongovernmental advocacy organization Save the Children examines the parts of the world where 1.2 billion children are most commonly subjected to those three most common causes of abuse and suffering.

While the global trend appears favorable for children – their situations improved in 95 of 175 countries – hotspots of conflict and other crisis among some countries caused a sharp decline for others' prospects.

The report highlights 10 "major trends that require urgent action," including preventing girls from marrying before their 18th birthday, reducing teen pregnancy rates, providing access to schools and eliminating child labor.

"Most of the world's children are being robbed of their childhoods and their futures because they're living in poverty, growing up in warzones or experiencing discrimination for being girls," Carolyn Miles, Save the Children's president and CEO, said in a written statement. "Progress is not happening quickly enough for the world's most vulnerable children."

According to the group, the 10 worst countries for children are all in Africa, largely in its western and central regions. Niger is considered the most dangerous for children, followed by Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of the Congo, in order.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, showed some of the most improvement compared to last year. Uganda, Somalia, Niger, Mali and Sierra Leone improved their scores, the report states. Nigeria and Liberia, however, both dropped significantly in the ranking due to malnutrition, child labor and lack of access to schools.

The Philippines' score dropped due to factors that stunted childhood growth, as did Syria's and Yemen's due to the ongoing conflicts there. Venezuela and Panama's scores also dropped due to lack of school access.

The best country for children is Singapore, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and South Korea.

The U.S. ranks 36th internationally, just above Russia and Kuwait and among the lowest for developed Western countries. Save the Children attributes America's relatively low position to poverty rates, particularly among rural areas.

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