The top 10 countries where kids are most likely to have safe, happy childhoods

All locations are not created equal.
All locations are not created equal.
Image: REUTERS / Andres Martinez Casares
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All kids have a right to a safe, healthy, and protected childhood, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (pdf), a milestone document adopted by the United Nations in 1948. A new report from Save the Children, an NGO based in the UK, shows which countries are doing the best job of meeting those conditions—and which ones are falling short.

The End of Childhood Report 2018 ranks 175 countries based on a set of indicators considered to be roadblocks to a safe and healthy childhood, including poor health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy, and extreme violence. In 95 of those countries, the overall situation for children improved from the previous year. But the index shows that conditions for children got worse in 40 countries, and warns that “poverty, conflict and discrimination against girls are putting more than 1.2 billion children—over half of children worldwide—at risk for an early end to their childhood.”

Here are the 10 countries where childhoods are most protected, according to the report—and the 10 countries where children are at the most risk:

The 10 best countries for a safe, healthy childhood

  1. Singapore
  2. Slovenia
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Finland
  6. Ireland
  7. Netherlands
  8. Iceland
  9. Italy
  10. South Korea

The 10 countries where children are most at risk

  1. Niger
  2. Mali
  3. Central African Republic
  4. Chad
  5. South Sudan
  6. Somalia
  7. Nigeria
  8. Guinea
  9. Sierra Leone
  10. Democratic Republic of the Congo

Some patterns are immediately evident: Of the 10 best countries to be a growing child, eight are in Europe, and two in Asia. Five of the top 10 countries are among the world’s 15 wealthiest nations per capita, and many of them are in the top 10 of UNICEF’s ranking for children’s well-being.

Meanwhile, all 10 of the countries where children face the biggest risks are in Africa. Several of the African nations in this year’s bottom 10 ranking are engaged in civil wars or conflict with terrorist groups, which creates unstable, unsafe conditions for children. Conflict is one of the three indicators that all 10 bottom countries share, in addition to poverty and gender discrimination.

“I also think it’s a lack of investment in the issues surrounding children,” Carolyn Miles, the president of Save the Children, told Quartz. “Getting governments and policymakers to focus on where the most deprived children in a country are”—and especially focusing on places where gender discrimination worsens existing systemic inequalities—is key to improving the situation of children worldwide.

This reporting is part of a series supported by a grant from the Bernard van Leer Foundation. The author’s views are not necessarily those of the Bernard van Leer Foundation.