United States must join with world to protect refugee children



– The United States is one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, yet it does not always stand with the rest of the global community in promoting universally accepted principles on the health and well-being of children across the world, particularly refugee children, according to Francis E. Rushton Jr., MD.

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In an interview at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Rushton discussed the importance of seeing American exceptionalism for what it is – a flaw rather than a virtue – and joining with the rest of the world in upholding the tenets of the Budapest Declaration On the Rights, Health and Well-being of Children and Youth on the Move.

In the three-page Budapest document, created by the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (ISSOP) in October 2017 and endorsed by the AAP, pediatricians from across the world acknowledge the realities of worldwide refugee crises and accept their detailed responsibilities in meeting and advocating for those children’s needs.

Although the current administration’s decision earlier this year to split children from their families at the border caught everyone attention, it’s necessary to look more broadly at “all the issues impacting children on the move,” Dr. Rushton told colleagues in a presentation at the AAP meeting. He particularly stressed the “importance of working with the global community on clinical services, programs and policy.”

Dr. Rushton, clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and medical director of the Quality Through Innovation in Pediatrics network, also discussed the need to commit to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and to join the global community in following the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the principles in the World Health Organization’s publication, “Nurturing care for early childhood development.”

The former is a “blueprint” to overcoming challenges related to “poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity and peace and justice” by achieving targets by 2030, and the latter is “a framework for helping children survive and thrive to transform health and human potential.”

“This is our issue as child health professionals. We need to continue applying pressure on our political leaders,” Dr. Rushton told his colleagues. He advocated taking the long view: “Let’s build a system that respects the human rights of all children.”

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