Despite massive gains in improving child well-being and reducing deaths over the past 20 years, there are millions still left behind, says the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The failures will continue if more is not done for the world’s most vulnerable children, warned the agency in its Progress for Children report.
If the rate of progress does not speed up, it is estimated that 68 million children will die from preventable causes by 2030. And UNICEF estimates that 119 million children will be chronically malnourished. This year the Sustainable Development Goals, the global goals that will set the development benchmarks for the next 15 years, are to be officially established. UNICEF urges that children be at the center of the new goals.
“The MDGs helped the world realize tremendous progress for children – but they also showed us how many children we are leaving behind,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, in a news release. “The lives and futures of the most disadvantaged children matter – not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their families, their communities and their societies.”
The report admits that it “failed millions of children,” for leaving so many behind. True to form, the warnings are paired with optimism and recommendations on how to fix the problem. “Equity-focused programming” emerges from the report as a sort of buzzword solution that is meant to describe the changes needed. In short, UNICEF recommends doing more to reduce inequity.
“Why does this matter? Because inequity today is the foundation of inequality tomorrow,” Lake wrote in the forward to the report. “Every child deserves a fair chance in life. Our future depends on it.”
Recommendations, though, are largely broad strokes throughout the report. The detailed pieces are the data that show changes in the lives of children since 1990 and the state of the world today. Major gains include halving child mortality rates and reducing chronic malnutrition and underweight children by more than 40 percent.
The recommendations are based on currently available data. But the UNICEF report joins a recent trend in development reports that include a section that describes how current data is insufficient.
“Despite significant advances in the quantity and quality of data and how it is analyzed, there are still critical gaps in our knowledge about the children in greatest need – and in our ability to measure our success in reaching them,” according to the report.
Often, the most vulnerable children are living in places where accurate data collection is the hardest. Whether they are in war-torn countries or dense urban settings, the lack of information hampers the ability to provide the targeted support championed by the report. Reaching those people can help reduce inequality – a problem UNICEF singles out as a major concern for global progress.
“A fair start in life for all children is not only right; it is necessary to achieve global development goals,” according to the report. “For individual nations, making – or failing to make – progress towards equity will have lasting ramifications for stability and economic growth.”