At 25, UNICEF Report Highlights Disparity Among 2.2 Billion Children; Urging Sharper Focus to Bridge the Gap—From Alhassan Yushau, ANA North America Editor and United Nations Correspondent

As it marks a quarter-century of advancing children’s rights, UNICEF has released The State of World Children 2014  calling for innovative ways of identifying and addressing  the gaps that prevent the less advantaged among the world’s 2.2 billion children from enjoying their rights.

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While launching the report titled: “Every Child Counts: Revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights,” the children’s agency pitched the essence of data as a key factor in making progress for children and exposing the unequal access to services and protections that mars the lives of so many.

“Data have made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived,” said Tessa Wardlaw, Chief of UNICEF’s Data and Analytics Section.

“Further progress can only be made if we know which children are the most neglected, where girls and boys are out of school, where disease is rampant or where basic sanitation is lacking,” he added.


The report noted however, that tremendous progress has been made since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was signed in 1989 and in the run up to the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

According to UNICEF, progressive measures such as delivery of immunizations, health, water, and sanitation services has saved the lives of some 90 million children—who would have died before reaching the age of 5—if child mortality rates had stuck at their 1990 level.

The report further revealed that significant improvements has been made in primary school enrolment even in the least developed countries – as 81 in 100 children got enrolled in school in 2011, whereas just 53 out of 100 in those countries gained school admission.  And improvements in nutrition have also led to a 37 per cent drop in stunting since 1990.


But the statistics in the report reveals a serious violations of children’s rights:

According to UNICEF, 6.6 million children under 5 years of age died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, in violation of their fundamental right to survive and develop, while 15 per cent of the world’s children are put to a type of work that compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play.

The reported added that 11 per cent of girls are married before they turn 15, jeopardizing their rights to health, education, and protection.

The report in summary

Maternal health: Over 70 countries reported new data on skilled attendant at birth, a key indicator in maternal health.   The world’s poorest children are nearly three (2.7) times less likely than the richest ones to have a skilled attendant at their birth, leaving them and their mothers at increased risk of birth-related complications.

 Large disparities in under-five child mortality rates:  High income countries overwhelmingly tend to have lower rates of child mortality – on average 6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, more than 13 times the average rate in low income countries (82 deaths per 1,000 live births).

Proportional disparities:  In 2012, high income countries accounted for 11% of the world under-five population and 1.4% of global under-five deaths.  Low income countries accounted for around 20% (18.8%) of the world under-five population and; however these countries contribute a third of global under-five deaths.

Trends in mortality: More under-five children now live in low income and lower middle income countries, compared to 1990 (about 50% in 1990 compared to more than 60% in 2012), and more under-five deaths are now occurring in low income and lower middle income countries (about 75% in 1990 vs. 87% in 2012).

Data also reveal gaps and inequities, showing the gains of development are unevenly distributed:

In The Niger, only 39 per cent of rural households have access to safe drinking water, whereas in the neighboring Chad—for every 100 boys who enter secondary school, only 44 girls do—leaving them without education and sense of protection driven from being in school.

The report notes that “being counted makes children visible, and this act of recognition makes it possible to address their needs and advance their rights.”

It adds that innovations in data collection, analysis and dissemination are making it possible to disaggregate data by such factors as location, wealth, sex, and ethnic or disability status, to include children who have been excluded or overlooked by broad averages.

The report, therefore, urges increased investment in innovations that right the wrong of exclusion—Adding: “Overcoming exclusion begins with inclusive data. To improve the reach, availability and reliability of data on the deprivations with which children and their families contend, the tools of collection and analysis are constantly being modified – and new ones are being developed. This will require sustained investment and commitment.”

But it added in conclusion that “Data do not, of themselves, change the world. They make change possible –by identifying needs, supporting advocacy, and gauging progress. What matters most is that decision-makers use the data to make positive change, and that the data are available for children and communities to use in holding duty-bearers to account.”