Based on current trends, 69 million children under five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million children will live in poverty, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030 – the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals – unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children, according to a UNICEF report released in Hyderabad today by Speaker of Telangana Assembly S Madhusudhana Chary.
The theme of UNICEF’s annual flagship report – The State of the World’s Children – this year is “A fair chance for every child” and it paints a stark picture of what is in store for the world’s poorest children if governments, donors, businesses and international organizations do not accelerate efforts to address their needs.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief UNICEF Office of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, Ruth Leano, said, “Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures – by fueling intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it jeopardizes the future of their societies. We have a choice: invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided.”
The Assembly Speaker congratulated UNICEF for its effort in bring out this publication that refocuses the attention on equity around child rights. “I assure UNICEF and other partners of the continuing support of the State Government in giving each and every child a fair chance in life,” he said.
The report notes that significant progress has been made in saving children’s lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty. Global under-five mortality rates have been more than halved since 1990, boys and girls attend primary school in equal numbers in 129 countries, and the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide is almost half of what it was in the 1990s.
But this progress has been neither even nor fair, the report says. The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished than the richest. Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they are five than those born to mothers with a secondary education. And girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than girls from the wealthiest households.
Although education plays a unique role in levelling the playing field for children, the number of children who do not attend school has increased globally since 2011, and a significant proportion of those who do go to school are not learning.
India has much to celebrate in the area of education, particularly in ensuring children’s access to school, through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and implementation of the Right to Education Act. This is reflected in the near-universal enrolment in primary education and the steady decrease in numbers of out-of-school children. The number of out-of-school children between 6 to 13 years has declined from approximately 8 million in 2009 to 6 million in 2014. Yet challenges still remain. In India, out of the 74 million children between 3-6 years, about 20 million were not attending any preschool education in 2014, and it is the children from the poorest families and marginalised communities who are often left behind .
The report points to evidence that investing in the most vulnerable children can yield immediate and long-term benefits. Globally, cash transfers, for example, have been shown to help children stay in school longer and advance to higher levels of education. On average, each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10 per cent. And for each additional year of schooling completed, on average, by young adults in a country, that country’s poverty rates fall by 9 per cent.
Inequity is neither inevitable, nor insurmountable, the report argues. Better data on the most vulnerable children, integrated solutions to the challenges children face, innovative ways to address old problems, more equitable investment and increased involvement by communities – all these measures can help level the playing field for children. (INN)