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, unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children, according to a UNICEF report released today. The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF’s annual flagship report, paints a stark picture of what is in store for the world’s poorest children if governments, donors, businesses and international organisations do not accelerate efforts to address their needs. “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.”
The global report notes that significant progress has been made in saving children’s lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty. But this progress has been neither even nor fair, according to the report. 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 3 times more likely to die before they are 5 than those born to mothers with a secondary education. However, Botswana is one of the few African countries that has dramatically reduced poverty levels, achieved universal access to HIV treatment, and strengthened social services such as education and health. Between 2002/3 and 2009/10, the incidence of poverty decreased from 30.6% to 19.4% and the primary school enrolment has been consistent with targets set for the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education by 2015. 95% of the population live within 8km of a health facility and 98% of deliveries take place within health facilities and attended by a skilled worker.
Although there is much to celebrate, a lot can still be done in Botswana. Research points out that children of poorer families are not just dropping out of school earlier, they are disadvantaged since conception: their mothers have more troublesome pregnancies, the children are less frequently breastfed and provided with a less healthy diet afterwards. Moreover, they do not get the care they need when they are ill and they are subject to more potentially life-threatening dangers when growing up because they are more exposed to violence. They also have less access to clean water and to adequate sanitation.
Analysis of the Botswana Core Welfare Indicators Survey shows that:
• 63% of children are deprived in at least two of the following areas: nutrition, health, housing, schooling, access to toilets, and clean water supply.
• 43% of children are deprived in at least two of these areas, but actually live above the monetary poverty line,
• Districts where children experience most deprivations are Kgalagadi North, Kgalagadi South, Ghanzi, Ngamiland West, Ngamiland East, Kweneng West, Ngwaketse West and Barolong.
• 31% of children are chronically malnourished, reducing their learning ability and ultimately hurts Botswana’s economic growth prospects.
The State of the World’s Children report further states that investing in the most vulnerable children can yield immediate and long-term benefits. For each additional year of education, adult earnings increase by 10% and the country’s poverty rates fall by 9%. Therefore, 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 can help level the playing field for children.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook