Unicef report: Tackle inequality to prevent children from dying

Unicef says 167 million children will live in extreme poverty, 60 million won’t attend primary school, and 750 million women will be child brides by 2030


Globally, children in the poorest 20% of the population are twice as likely to die before age five than children in the richest 20%. Photo: Hindustan Times
Globally, children in the poorest 20% of the population are twice as likely to die before age five than children in the richest 20%. Photo: Hindustan Times

New York: The UN children’s agency warned on Monday that 69 million youngsters under the age of five will die from preventable causes between now and 2030 if all countries don’t accelerate action to improve health and education for the most disadvantaged.

Unicef said in its annual report that based on recent trends and projected population growth, 167 million children will also live in extreme poverty, 60 million won’t be attending primary school, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030 unless inequality is tackled now.

Unicef’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said at the report’s launch that the agency is “broadcasting our message into a world that is more hostile,” especially to migrants and refugees, including millions of children.

Many are fleeing because of poverty and inequality, he said, and these root causes must be addressed “if you’re going to stop some of these forces overwhelming particular countries and polarizing the political debate.”

“Our job in Unicef is to be there on the ground and helping children survive,” Forsyth said, but the agency also needs to ensure that there is “a factually fuelled debate about these tough issues of our times,” and the message gets out that focusing on the most disadvantaged is crucial.

Unicef programme director Ted Chaiban said in addition to youngsters fleeing poverty and inequality, there are also more children living in conflict areas—250 million, and 30 million are displaced.

Inequality exists in every country, he said, and globally children in the poorest 20% of the population are twice as likely to die before age five than children in the richest 20%.

Chaiban said “80% of preventable deaths now occur in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with almost half occurring in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Congo and Ethiopia.”

Unicef called on all 193 UN member states to develop national plans that put the most disadvantaged and left behind children first and set specific goals to close gaps between the richest and poorest.

Forsyth said up to 147 million children between one- and five-years-old could be saved from preventable death “just with a 2% increase in expenditure in 74 countries.”

Unicef also has evidence that every dollar spent on vaccinations for the most disadvantaged children “can generate $16 dollars in terms of economic returns,” he said.

According to The State of the World’s children report 2016, cash transfers have helped children stay in school longer—and on average, each additional year of education a child receives increases his or her adult earnings by about 10%.

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