UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, has announced Sharjah city as the Middle East’s first candidate for the organisation’s ‘Child Friendly City’ Initiative. The Child Friendly City Initiative aims to guide cities in the inclusion of children’s rights as a key component of their goals, policies, programmes and structures.
In recent years, Sharjah has put environmental, ecological and societal factors at the top of its agenda, via a wide range of initiatives and has created a number of government departments and authorities with specific goals related to the well-being of residents.
Sharjah created Bee’ah in 2007, an integrated environmental services company, with a brief to divert 100 percent of the emirate’s landfill waste to recycling and waste-to-energy power. Sharjah Urban Planning Council was formed by royal decree in 2014, with a mandate that includes overseeing socio-economic development. More recently, Sharjah Labour Standards Development Authority (SLSDA) was formed by royal decree in 2015 with a broad range of objectives to include improving workplace environments, housing and the quality of life in Sharjah’s industrial areas.
In 2011, the government launched Sharjah Baby Friendly Emirate Campaign to support breastfeeding mothers and their access to health facilities, nurseries, public places and workplaces. Based on the WHO and UNICEF International Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, the initiative has now transformed into Sharjah Baby Friendly Office (SBFO) with a brief to focus on a wider age-group of children.
Sharjah city also joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) Healthy Cities programme and was officially accredited as the Middle East’s first WHO Healthy City in 2015. The city was able to meet 88 percent of the 80 programme criteria, becoming the first Middle Eastern country to be accredited as a WHO Healthy City.
The Sharjah Baby Friendly Office and over 23 government and private institutions have been working on key components of the Child Friendly City Initiative as laid out by UNICEF, improving children’s health and safety and opportunities for growth. According to the SFBO, Sharjah has already achieved the 50 percent growth in progress set by UNICEF, against the initiative’s targets for the year 2025, 9 years in advance of the deadline, leaving the city well positioned to become the region’s first ‘Child Friendly City’.
Source: SBFO, UNICEF