A recent report published by the UNICEF research centre, Innocenti, has found that some of the richest countries in the world – including the Netherlands – play a major role in creating unhealthy and dangerous living conditions for children around the world. 

Ensuring healthy environments for children around the world

The Innocenti Report Card 17: Places and Spaces compares the role 39 countries in the EU and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) play in creating and providing children with healthy living environments. The report looks at a number of factors, including children’s access to light, green spaces, and safe roads, as well as the countries’ contribution to the climate crisis. 

Various rankings are then compiled based on the country’s performance, in order to determine which countries create the best environments for their children, and which ones have the worst impact on the living conditions of children around the world. 

Finland, Japan, Iceland, and Switzerland were the countries which were found to have the best living conditions for young citizens and residents. Meanwhile, decisions made in Costa Rica, Romania, and Chile have the least detrimental effects on the built and natural environment on a local, regional, national and global level.

“We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to create better places and spaces for children to thrive,” says Innocenti director Gunilla Olsson. “We must pursue policies and practices that safeguard the natural environment upon which children and young people depend the most.”

Good quality of life for most children in the Netherlands

The Netherlands came in 12th place when it came to the living conditions of Dutch children, meaning the country remains a solid choice for any families with kids. However, the report notes that children with parents earning a below-average salary are more likely to be exposed to noise pollution from cars and planes, and emphasises that this could lead to various adverse health effects such as stress and reduced cognitive functioning. 

Furthermore, more than one in 12 children living in the Netherlands live in areas with a high pesticide pollution risk. UNICEF explains that pesticide pollution has been linked with cancer cases in children, and can harm children’s nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems.

On a global level, the Netherlands, along with Finland, Iceland and Norway, is “disproportionately contributing to the destruction of the global environment,” and thereby helps to create “unhealthy, dangerous and noxious conditions for children across the world.” This is largely due to the country’s production and processing of e-waste, which contains hazardous substances such as mercury and lead.

Finally, Innocenti found that we would need three earths in order to sustain the lifestyle and habits of the global population if everyone in the world lived like the average person from the Netherlands.

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