Security and safety

Young children can not protect themselves and are vulnerable to unanticipated danger, physical pain and emotional stress. Extreme poverty and low income pose serious risks that have to be mitigated, by social assistance that may include cash transfers.

Pregnant women and young children are also most vulnerable to environmental risks, including air pollution and exposure to chemicals. Young children, once they are mobile, can touch and swallow objects that can harm them, and an unclean or unsafe environment is full of potential threats. Young children can experience extreme fear when people abandon them – or threaten to abandon or punish them.

Across the world, toddlers are the group most often harshly punished, by being beaten painfully with sticks, belts and other objects. These experiences cause uncontrollable fear and stress that can programme the young child’s response systems in ways that can lead to emotional, mental and social maladjustment.

Children can withdraw socially, learn to mistrust adults, or act out their fear in aggression towards other children. Ensuring caregivers’ mental health, working with them to prevent maltreatment, is needed. Nurturing care includes making sure that defenceless young children feel safe and secure.