Urbanisation leaves hundreds of millions of children in cities excluded from vital services, UNICEF warns in its new report, The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World.

"When we think of poverty, the image that traditionally comes to mind is that of a child in a rural village," says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "But today, an increasing number of children living in slums and shantytowns are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in the world."

Over half the world's population - including more than a billion children - now live in cities and towns. UNICEF estimates one in three city dwellers lives in a slum or deprived area.

Cities offer many children the advantages of urban schools, clinics and playgrounds. Yet they are also the settings for some of the greatest disparities in children's health, education and wellbeing, the report states.

"Excluding these children in slums not only robs them of the chance to reach their full potential," Lake said. "It robs their societies of the economic benefits of having a well-educated, healthy urban population."

He added: "Urbanisation is a fact of life, but we must invest more in cities, and focus greater attention on providing services to children in need."

Cities leave millions of children excluded, UNICEF warns in a new report. © UNICEF 2012
Cities leave millions of children excluded, UNICEF warns in a new report.© UNICEF 2012