World Children’s Day 2023: Five wishes from MSF
At Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF), children often make up the majority of our patients.
Children are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises, both directly – for example through the impact of conflict and disasters – as well as indirectly – through heightened vulnerability to consequences such as malnutrition and disease outbreaks. Tragically, a significant number of these children succumb to illnesses that would otherwise be preventable with timely access to the right treatments and preventive measures.
For World Children’s Day 2023, we want to share with you our ‘wishlist’ for children and some of the work MSF is doing towards these goals. While some of the wishes may seem basic, the sad truth is that large numbers of children are currently facing failures in these areas. We strive to transform these wishes into a tangible reality for children in some of the most challenging environments.
On a lighter note, some of the children we have treated have decided to share their drawings with us for World Children’s Day. Scroll to the bottom to see the beautiful work by children all over the world, created in the face of adversity!
A stop to blockages of humanitarian aid, so all children, on all sides of conflict, can receive life-saving care.
We provide free medical care to people who need it. It doesn’t matter where they are from, which religion they belong to or what their political affiliations are. Added to this, blocking humanitarian aid to children is one of the UN’s six grave violations, and tragically these blockages are currently affecting MSF’s capacity to deliver care. In places like Gaza and Sudan, the impact of blockages is profound, preventing children from receiving timely and life-saving care.
Urgent scale-up in nutrition and food support to meet escalating child hunger, malnutrition and starvation in crisis contexts.
Around half of preventable deaths in young children are linked to malnutrition. This is because children suffering from acute malnutrition have weakened immune systems and so are at far greater risk of death from other diseases. In 2022, MSF treated over half a million children for malnutrition, double the number in 2021. We’re calling for a collective commitment to intensify aid efforts, ensuring that every child has access to sufficient and nutritious food, breaking this vicious cycle of malnutrition.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many diseases have seen resurgences. Global numbers for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria infections increased from 2020 to 2021, and World Health Organization data indicates that 20.5 million children missed out on one or more vaccines delivered through routine immunisation services in 2022. Read more about MSF’s call on Gavi to improve vaccine access for children up to five years old.
Improve access to medicines for chronic conditions, in dosages and formulations which are safe for the child‘s age and size.
This is crucial in dosages and formulations which are safe for the child‘s age and size. Currently, one-third of the world lacks access to essential medicines, rising to half in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia. This is even worse for children because the right medicines for their age and size are harder to come by. For example, we are seeing limited access to tuberculosis care for children, limited access to diabetes medications, and much more. Read more about MSF’s work to improve access to medicines here.
Access to play, stimulation, learning and a safe environment so that children can hold on to their future while conflict holds on to their present.
Children should be able to hold on to their future while conflict holds on to their present. One MSF initiative towards this goal is our Play Therapy project, which uses play to help children explore and express their emotions and process and cope with difficult experiences – read more about it here.
Gallery: Drawings from young MSF patients
"MSF car" by anonymous, age 10 from the DRC
Eleazar, aged eight from Venezuela
By Sana, age 11 from Pakistan
"Organising my Emotions" by Sofia, age 12 from Thailand
"Things that make me happy" by Hakim, age 9 from Thailand
By Manyal, age 15 from South Sudan
By Isaac, aged 7 from Honduras
By Isaac, aged 7 from Honduras
By Acsly, aged 9 from Dominican Republic
By Maya, aged 17 from Lebanon
By Noor, aged 8 from Yemen
Osman, aged 15 from Sierra Leone
- MSF/Kathy Rombouts
Children drawing in South Sudan