If the world community hopes to reverse troubling trends in child poverty and mortality by 2030, the target date for the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, governments, private donors, businesses, and international organizations must focus more on addressing the plight of the world's most disadvantaged children, a report from UNICEF warns.
The report, The State of the World's Children 2016: A Fair Chance for Every Child (184 pages, PDF), found that if current trends persist, by 2030 sixty-nine million children under the age of five will die from mostly preventable causes, a hundred and sixty-seven million children will be living in extreme poverty, and sixty million children of primary school age will not be in school. Despite improvements since the 1990s in global under-five mortality rates, gender parity in primary school attainment, and poverty rates, progress has been neither even nor fair, the report further notes. Indeed, children from the poorest households are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished, while girls are twice as likely to be child brides as girls from the richest households. And while the report notes that education helps level the playing field, it estimates that about a hundred and twenty-four million children do not attend primary- or lower-secondary school today, while nearly 40 percent of those who finish primary school do not know how to read, write, or do simple arithmetic.
The outlook is bleakest in sub-Saharan Africa, where two in three children currently live in multidimensional poverty, deprived of what they need to survive and thrive. The report projects that if current trends persist, sub-Saharan Africa will account for nearly half the number of deaths of children under five — most from preventable causes — more than half the children not in primary school, and 90 percent of the children living in extreme poverty. Despite the grim predictions, inequalities in opportunity for children can be drastically reduced within a generation, the report argues, with better data collection, the development of innovative and integrated solutions to poverty and disease, and the political will to invest in countries and regions with the most disadvantaged children.
"Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures — by fueling intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies," said UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake. "We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided."