World must address disparities today to keep 69 million children from dying from mostly preventable causes by 2030, new report says.
Homeless children live in grinding poverty in Gauhati, India. A new UNICEF report says that unless the world begins to address economic disparities today, 69 million children will die from mostly preventable causes by 2030. (ANUPAM NATH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
That’s the message of UN children’s fund UNICEF, in its annual State of the World’s Children Report, published Tuesday.
Unless the world begins to address disparities today, the report says, “69 million children will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million will live in poverty, 60 million primary school-aged children will be out of school and 750 million women will have married as children by 2030.” That is the target date for fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for alleviating poverty and inequality.
While children born today are “significantly less” likely to live in poverty than those who were born in 2000, millions still live and die “in unconscionable conditions,” and the world is in danger of becoming more divided and unfair for its most vulnerable children.
The numbers of children who are out of school has actually increased by about 2 million since 2011. And child marriage has not declined for decades.
“Around the world, millions of children are denied their rights and deprived of everything they need to grow up healthy and strong — because of their place of birth or family of origin; because of their race, ethnicity or gender; or because they live in poverty or with a disability.” All these are considered factors that are often ignored in national statistics.
Compared with the world’s richest children, the poorest are almost twice as likely to die before age five.
UNICEF blames “equity gaps,” warning that without significant investment in education and poverty reduction, children’s lives and futures will be at risk. Currently, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia experience about 80 per cent of the world’s child deaths, which are concentrated in five countries — Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The report said that children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they reach the age of 5 compared to children whose mothers attend secondary school. Marrying young also disadvantages children: girls from the poorest households are 2.5 times more likely to wed while underage than those from wealthier families, a fate that affects their health, education, future prospects and mortality rates.
Education is the key factor for lifting children out of poverty. “On average, each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10 per cent.” A country’s poverty rates fall by about 9 per cent for each additional school year completed, on a national average.
But national averages that show economic progress can also mask the inequalities that fester in countries judged successes, but which ignore the gaps separating the most disadvantaged children from the rest of society. In Nigeria, for instance —Africa’s largest economy — lack of access to clean water and sanitation may elevate the risk of death for children up to 11 months old by as much as 38 per cent.
Although the report focuses on the poorest children, wealthy countries may also overlook the effect of inequality on their youngest citizens. An earlier UNICEF “report card” on child well-being named Canada as one of the more unequal societies for children and youth, ranking 26th of 35 well-to-do nations in 2016.
“Inequity is not inevitable,” said David Morley, who heads UNICEF Canada. “A sustainable and more equitable future is possible, but we must start investing more in the most disadvantaged children, investing earlier on, and investing in more innovative ways.”
The first step to an equitable approach to development, said the report, is “learning more about who is being left behind and why.”
By: OLIVIA WARD Foreign Affairs Reporter