According to a study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in cooperation with the Mexican government and released last month during a media conference in Mexico City, more than 20 million Mexican children and adolescents – nearly 53 percent of the under-18 population – live in poverty, and more than 4 million of them in extreme poverty.
The most recent report on poverty and social rights of 2010-2012, which is produced every two years by the Unicef and the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval), reveals that of the 40 million Mexican children under 17, 53.8 percent live in poverty, and of these, 4.7 million (12.1 percent) live in abject poverty.
While the study indicated that 6.4 million Mexican youngsters (16.4 percent of the overall population in this age bracket) are not poor and do not face any situation of food vulnerability, 22.4 percent (8.8 million children) live in vulnerable situations and suffer social deprivation.
Another 7.5 percent (2.9 million Mexican youths) are subject to vulnerable incomes.
Although in recent years child poverty has declined in Mexico – mainly due to the implementation of social programs aimed at helping underprivileged youth, such as the nationwide Cruzada Nacional Contra el Hambre campaign – children still represent a larger per capita share of the nation’s poor than other age groups.
“The economy in this country has grown well over the past years,” said Coneval executive secretary Gonzalo Hernández Licona during the press conference. “But this fact does not always mean that the poor are better off.”
Erika Strand, Unicef’s chief of social policy in Mexico, pointed out that the study also found that one in four children under 1 year old are not covered by the universal health insurance plan Seguro Popular.
“Children under age five are considered the group with the highest incidence of poverty compared to other groups, including teenagers and adults,” she said.
According to a press release from the UN’s official website, approximately 14 percent of Mexican children under five years of age are stunted, meaning they are slowed in their development, often as a result of malnutrition.
The rate is even higher in rural areas and reaches nearly 33 percent among children in indigenous communities.
The Unicef report revealed that the occurrence of childhood poverty in Mexico is closely related to geography, family and their parents’ level of education.
The majority of children who live in abject poverty live in rural areas located in the south of the country.
More than 4 million Mexican children live in extreme poverty
According to the study, the Mexican states with the highest child food-insecurity rates are clustered in the south of the country, and tend to be sparsely populated.
These include Chiapas, with 81.7 percent of youngsters under age 18 living below the poverty line, Guerrero, with 77.1 percent, Puebla, with 72.5 percent, and Oaxaca, with 66.9 percent.
In contrast, the states with the lowest incidence of childhood poverty were located in the north of the country.
They include the states of Nuevo León, with just 30 percent of minors living below the poverty line, Coahuila, with 33.2 percent, and Baja California Sur, with 33.7 percent.
In a country plagued by obesity, is it logical that more than half Mexico’s children go to bed hungry at night or worrying about where their next meal will be coming from?