World poverty is falling thanks to the progress achieved by Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) between 2000 and 2015, and it is expected to fall even further with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set for 2030.
However, if nothing is done to step up progress to meet development goals in the next 15 years, nearly 70 million children under the age of five could die between now and 2030, warns the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
While the past 15 years have proved to be a game changer for the world in tackling development challenges, to meet the 2030 goals, the pace of progress in the next 15 years must outpace that of the MDGs.
In their latest annual State of the World’s Children report, UNICEF calls on governments, NGOs, and donors to put efforts on the most disadvantaged children as well as close the gaps, giving all young people a better chance at a bright future.
“These vast inequities and dangers do more than violate the rights and imperil the futures of individual children,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in the report. “They perpetuate inter-generational cycles of disadvantage and inequality that undermine the stability of societies and even the security of nations everywhere,” he added.
According to the report, if the inequities are not tackled urgently by 2030, about 167 million children, the great majority in sub-Saharan Africa, will still be living in extreme poverty. It is estimated that 3.6 million children under age 5 will die that year, still from mostly preventable causes. At that time, there could still be more than 60 million primary-school-aged children out of school. More than half will be from sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the major crisis pointed out in the report is the issue of migration and refugees affecting Europe and other parts of the world. This, according to the document is an example of how inequalities are furthering global instability, Justin Forsyth, UNICEF deputy executive director said.
“A combination of poor governance, conflict, but also inequality and inequity is fueling that instability, which is fueling that mass movement of people,” he was quoted by Voice of America commenting on the issue of migrants on the move from North Africa.
Can the situation be salvaged?
Yes. Forsyth believes the situation can be amended through small investments in health and education. “We could save up to 147 million children from death from under five [years old] child mortality, just with a 2 percent increase in expenditure in 74 countries.” That translates to about $30 billion a year.
Another way to end the inequalities is by governments honoring their commitments to achieving the 2030 sustainable development agenda, a move that UNICEF is encouraging.
In Africa where the situation is dire, more has to be done. In sub-Saharan Africa, two out three children live in poverty and most have less than four years of schooling, the report noted.
Major development challenges such as corruption, conflict, poor governance and harsh climatic changes are holding back sustainable advancement on the sub-continent.
UNICEF Program Director Ted Chaiban noted that in countries like the DR Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, where a combination of conflict and poor governance continue to keep these nations behind the rest of Africa, there is need to support them to come out of these problems.
What happens if nothing is done between now and then?
Well, the UN children’s agency warns if current trends continue, and the sustainable development targets are missed, some 750 million women will have been married as children – three-quarters of a billion child brides. Nearly 35 million African children could die before their fifth birthdays from mostly preventable causes. Those who do survive will have poor primary school attendance and 9 out of 10 will live in extreme poverty.
“These vast inequities and dangers do more than violate the rights and imperil the futures of individual children. They perpetuate intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and inequality that undermine the stability of societies and even the security of nations everywhere,” said UNICEF.
Image credit: UNICEF