Irish youth poll urges priority for health and education for children

Students from 5th year in Presentation College Currylea, Tuam with their teacher Doreen Gurney (left) and Unicef chairman Paul Connolly, Minister for Children James O’Reilly and executive director of Unicef Ireland Peter Power at a day long Youth Summit at Dublin Castle recently. 

Improving health and education of the world’s children must be prioritised when international leaders set the next list of Millennium Development Goals, according to a poll of young people here by children ’s charity Unicef.

Minister for Children James Reilly was presented with the results of the online survey of 2,000 young people at a Unicef Youth Summit in Dublin. Health topped the list of priorities, followed by education, poverty/hunger, safety from harm and equality. The poll followed a year long Unicef led consultation process on global development issues .

Five children’s ambassadors from Zambia joined the 150 young Irish, who came from 13 schools and five youth groups, in releasing dozens of blue balloons at Dublin Castle symbolising their wishes for a better world for children.

Minister Reilly said the Government fully subscribed to the poll priorities, describing them as the “core values” of this Republic.

The five priorities were discussed by five of the young people earlier this week with Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan who will communicate them to next week’s UN General Assembly in New York which will set the next Millennium Development Goals after the current targets expire next year.

While it remains unacceptable 8,000 children die each day, progress has been made internationally towards reducing child mortality and improving access to education and equality, Minister Reilly told the summit.

According to the Unesco ‘Sustainable Development’ report, the number of deaths of children under five fell from 12.6 to 6.6 million between 1990 and 2012. The report also found maternal education made a much more significant contribution than economic growth to reducing child mortality.

Peter Power, executive director of Unicef Ireland, said the summit was “about taking action for children all around the world”. It was clear young people here believe health and education are the key to lifting millions of children out of poverty, he said.

Kaitlyn Maher told the summit Ireland’s youth had decided their priorities and their job now was to “stand tall” and push for their targets to be achieved. This project was to ensure young people “have a stake in our planet and out future”, Hugh Creaton added.

Rachel Whelan of Glenageary, Dublin, a first year student at Newpark School, was one of the five representatives who met with Mr Flanagan and said she got involved in the Unicef project because she wanted “to make a change in the world”.

Josephine Pumulo, a teenager and Unicef Private Ambassador for Climate Change from Zambia, said she wanted to support Unicef in getting world leaders to “walk the talk”. She believed education was key to world development because people who are fully informed “make healthy decisions”.