INVESTING in children is the key to reducing social and economic gaps.
This was the message emanating from a meeting of government representatives from across the East Asia and Pacific region in Vietnam last week.
In a statement from the United Nations Children's Fund Pacific office, 16 representatives discussed various fiscal and social policies that could end the growing disparities and promote a sustainable future.
"Economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region has lifted millions of people out of poverty. Critical social indicators have shown remarkable progress with a 68 per cent drop in child mortality since 1990 and the majority of children in the region getting a primary school education," UNICEF said.
"But this success masks uneven progress with the prosperity of many hiding the deepening poverty of others.
"Millions of families in the region are being bypassed by both economic growth and progress on key social indicators.
"For the Pacific Islands, high exposure to commodity price fluctuations, geographic isolation, and high reliance on imported food and fuel, has constrained growth and poverty reduction.
"Across the region, many children still do not have access to essential social services like healthcare and education because they are poor or live in rural or remote areas.
"Evidence from early-warning monitoring of vulnerable families in the Pacific shows that adequate food and nutrition is a growing concern."
UNICEF says 70 per cent of households surveyed reported insufficient food budgets, particularly in urban areas.