Mixed results for Czech Republic in UNICEF international child welfare report

The welfare of children in the world's most advanced states is the focus of an extensive report just released by the United Nations children's organisation UNICEF. It uses a wide range of factors from health, to poverty, to relations with family and peers to rate 21 countries; the Netherlands is judged to have the best child well-being, the UK the worst. The Czech Republic ranks 15th, though the news is certainly not all bad.

I spoke to the head of the Czech branch of UNICEF, Pavla Gomba, and first asked her in which areas the country did well.

"Well, we traditionally rate well especially in health care and also education. By the way, the only indicator where we were the first out of all these 21 countries was in the number of books that children have available at home. So I would say health and education...and of course also relative poverty - we were in the upper average."

And are there any other positives for the Czech Republic in this report?

"I think the development is positive, because we do surveys like that - although maybe not of this size - regularly. And the economic indicators are improving, which has an impact on the situation of children."

In what categories is the Czech Republic judged to be weaker in terms of child well-being?

"This survey identifies some gaps. These are especially in the area of let's say emotional well-being, or relationships - especially in the family and also relationships with peers.

"Also one of the questions was, how many times a week does a child have breakfast? In this indicator we were in third worst place."

Is there also an issue of a relatively low level of friendship among children themselves?

"This was one of the surprises for us. I think this is a very strong indication and it should be taken seriously by especially at school, because this is where children come into contact with other children and their peers."

Finally, what do you say to the fact that the Czech Republic came 15th in this survey out of 21 states, in terms of child welfare?

"The aim of this survey is to provoke a debate and to identify the gaps for teachers, for parents, but also for the authorities, which can set up a more protective and friendlier environment for children as well.

"What is very surprising is how the children themselves rate their situation. They were in fact more negative than the actual situation is, and this is I think an area of concern."