More than half a billion of the world’s poorest children are invisible to the international organisations that could help them most. Children worldwide are “uncounted” in development targets because they live in countries where the data required to monitor and evaluate key areas such as education and nutrition is unavailable, Unicef has warned. According to a report on child-related sustainable development goals (SDGs), roughly 650 million children live in countries where the targets will remain unattainable unless accelerated progress is made to meet current targets.
Following current trends, roughly 10 million children will die of preventable causes before their fifth birthday, while 31 million children will be stunted because they lack adequate nutrition, Unicef claims. “More than half the world’s children live in countries where we either can’t track their SDG progress or where we can, and they are woefully off track,” said Laurence Chandy, Unicef’s director for the division of data, research and policy. “Two years ago, the world agreed on an ambitious agenda to give every child the best chance in life, with cutting-edge data analysis to guide the way. What our comprehensive report on SDG progress for children reveals plainly is an abject lack of data. Most countries do not have the information even to assess whether they are on track or not.”
The Unicef report measures countries’ progress in meeting child-related targets in five areas: health, learning, protection from violence and exploitation, equal opportunity and safe environment. Only a minority of nations have met the targets in learning, protection and equal opportunity, the report showed. On average, roughly 80% of child-related indicators in countries either have insufficient data or show insufficient progress. Unicef said ambitious global targets and immature monitoring frameworks were among the reasons for the paucity of data. The report also projected that, by 2030, 22 million children worldwide would not attend pre-primary education; 150 million girls would marry before their 18th birthday; and 670 million people, many of them children, would not have access to drinking water.
Globally, adolescent girls and children from poorer homes and rural areas are at greater risk of being left behind than their peers, according to the report. Ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and migrant children are also considered difficult or impossible to assess given existing data. African countries are off track on twice as many child indicators than countries from any other area, with sub-Saharan Africa at the lowest end of the targets, either lacking data or requiring improvement in more than 90% of all child-related SDG indicators. In the Central African Republic, for example, there is not a single indicator of progress in the five child-related SDG targets. Chandy said the greater effort was needed to ensure all countries have the minimum data coverage for children, irrespective of their resources or capabilities “The world must renew its commitments to attaining the SDGs, starting with renewing its commitment to measuring them,” he said. However, the Child Rights International Network said little progress could be made regarding children’s rights because the SDGs are not legally binding. “In neglecting a rights-based framework, the overall narrative of the SDGs is one in which children will continue to be seen as objects of charity rather than as holders of human rights,” said the network’s programme manager, Sabine Saliba Boutruche.
Credit: Kate Hodal for The Guardian, 7 March 2018.