UNICEF sees an increase in urgency and resolve among decision makers and actors to improve children’s rights on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The children’s rights organization concludes this after conducting research into the situation of children on the islands at the request of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The lack of data remains a major concern. UNICEF has been advocating for years for improved data collection for more targeted policies to combat child abuse, poverty and health problems.
The situation of children on the islands of the Caribbean Netherlands has been a cause for concern for some time. In 2013, UNICEF Netherlands identified major bottlenecks in the areas of child abuse and domestic violence, poverty, the quality of education and health. Since then, the Dutch government has developed various initiatives to strengthen children’s rights in the Caribbean Netherlands. Compared to 2013, UNICEF researchers found that there are improvements in care of children. Examples of this are the fact that all schools have achieved basic quality, the attention to poverty alleviation, and the investments in the quality of childcare.
However, the limited availability of data about children makes it impossible to measure the concrete results of these improvements on the actual lives of children. This applies in particular to vulnerable children, such as children growing up in families with single mothers in low income households or in a situation of domestic violence. There is also limited data on the sexual and mental well-being of teenagers. “Without good data about the situation of these children, they can easily be overlooked when new policies are being developed. Better data collection in the Caribbean Netherlands will lead to better policy with clear impact,” said La-Toya Charles, UNICEF Netherlands research leader.
Despite the progress made, there is plenty of reason to keep the situation of children on the three islands firmly on the agenda. For example, situations of domestic violence and child abuse remain worrisome, and there is still too little attention for children growing up in poverty. There are signs that young people are struggling to obtain a diploma in higher education and too many children struggle with obesity from an early age.