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Can we celebrate World Children’s Day in 2020?

These girls live in western Haiti, where only about 20 percent of the population is employed while the other 80 percent live on less than U.S. a day. | (Credit: Compassion International)

In a year like 2020, everything feels different. And the yearly celebration of World Children’s Day is no exception.

Established by a United Nations resolution in 1954, World Children's Day, observed each year on November 20, has been recognized as an opportunity to advocate for children’s rights.

November 20 also marks the day the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. In the treaty, the group set out a number of specific children’s rights, including the right to life, health, education, play and freedom from abuse, discrimination and exploitation.

Due to COVID-19 and its multifaceted effects, these rights are under significant threat for children in poverty.

In order to understand how to advocate for these children, we must first understand the challenges facing them. To name a few recent examples:

  • Hunger related to COVID-19 has already led to the deaths of 10,000 more children per month, according to UN estimates from earlier this year.
  • In the past few months alone, areas such as Southeast Asia and Central America have been ravaged by deadly storms, some of which have displaced hundreds of thousands of people at a time. Whether it’s a hurricane in Nicaragua, locusts in Ethiopia or political disruption in Bolivia, many in poverty find themselves fighting more than a global pandemic.
  • Already behind their global peers, children in poverty are losing educational ground. Kids from rural areas with little to no access to the internet have a tough time attending online classes and are more prone to dropping out. And that only applies to schools that are open. As of last week, more than one-third of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean still have yet to set a date for school to reopen.
  • On the heels of promising headlines that a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon, fewer than 800 million doses of the vaccine have been reserved for children and adults in the world’s poorest countries.

When we look at stats like these, celebrating World Children’s Day feels different this year.

After all, who meets the needs of these children? Children whose parents lost livelihoods, whose communities have been ravaged by natural disasters, who won’t get a vaccine until the rest of the world gets one first?

Compassion International’s work in child development across the globe has taught us the answer.

It’s the church.

In the midst of a global pandemic and all the world’s problems, thousands of local churches are responding.

In the time of COVID-19 alone, Compassion’s local church partners provided children and families with nearly 7.5 million food packs (many of which feed entire families for weeks), as well as nearly 5 million hygiene kits. They also helped young people receive critical support through medical care and unconditional cash transfers, which gave families in need the freedom to purchase supplies and cover basic expenses.

And that’s not even including the volunteers who made social-distanced visits to every child in their church or encouraged teenagers emotionally and spiritually through WhatsApp.

So this World Children’s Day, we still celebrate. We celebrate the church. We celebrate the brave men and women who show up each week to care for kids in their local fellowship – pandemic or otherwise.

And we celebrate you. Whether you donate to disaster relief efforts, support local aid organizations, sponsor a child or serve children in need in your own community, you are answering the call to advocate for children’s rights.

And in a year like 2020, support like that means more than ever.   

Matt K. Johnson is a senior writer for Compassion International, a global child development organization that works with thousands of local churches to release children from poverty in Jesus’ name.  

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