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State of the World Children

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Providing every child a fair chance to live is the essence of equitable development.
Every child should have the same right to a healthy start in life, education and safe, secure childhood. But these are denied to the children because of their place of birth or the origin of their family; because of their race, ethnicity or gender; or because they live in poverty or with disability.
If the world fails to deal with the children equitably, the scenario down the line is bleak. The Unicef 2016 Report tilted State of the World Children paints a grim picture of the future. Sample these facts:

By 2030
167 million Children will live in extreme poverty.
69 million children under age 5 will die between 2016 and 2030.
60 million children of primary school age will be out of school.
38% children leave school without learning how to read, write and do simple arithmetic.
950 million women will be married as children, if child marriages are not curbed

MDGs to SDGs
We can avert this fate as has been demonstrated during the 2000-2015 while the world nations pursued the Million Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have now been given a new name, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be pursued between 2015 and 2030.
But there are challenges ahead. For example, by 2015, at least 60 million people had fled their homes because of conflict and violence. Half of them are children.
Globally, more than half a billion children live in zones where the occurrence of flooding is extremely high, and nearly 160 million live in zones where the severity of drought is high or extremely high.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has projected that approximately 250,000 additional deaths will occur annually through 2030 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress attributable to climate change.

What is Equity?
It means the same opportunity for all children to survive and develop their full potential.
An ‘equity approach’ to development begins with learning more about who is being left behind and why, identifying the children at greatest risk and analysing the structural determinants of inequity ““ poverty, geography and discrimination, for example ““ and the complex interplay among them.

Infant Mortality
For approximately one million children in 2015, their first day of life was also their last.
Compared to the richest children, the poorest children are: 1.9 times
as likely to die before age 5

80% Child Deaths in South Asia
Globally, child deaths are highly concentrated. In 2015, about 80% of these deaths occurred in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Nepal, B.Desh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan) and sub-Saharan Africa, and almost half occurred in just five countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

34% Muslim Children Out of School
The Report says 34% Muslim children in India are not enrolled in the school. This proportion among other communities in India is: Hindus 25.9%, Christians 25.6%, Jains 12.4%, Buddhists 18.2%.
The Right To Education Act (RTE) has improved the retention of children in schools. In 2009, the dropouts among 6-13 age group were 8 million which declined to 6 million in 2015.
36% children drop out before they finish their elementary level education. Nearly half of these children are from underprivileged sections while 47% belong to Scheduled Tribes.
However there is no worthwhile improvement in the learning outcome. It has quoted National Achievement Survey which says half of the 5th std children cannot answer questions from Maths.

Child Marriages
While child marriage rates are decreasing, each year about 15 million girls are married before the age of 18. These girls represent a highly vulnerable group: They are denied their childhood, face limited opportunities for education and often begin childbearing too early.
Girls in the poorest 20% of the population, as well as those living in rural areas, face the greatest risks. In Africa, the level of child marriage among the poorest has remained unchanged since 1990.
And babies born to mothers under age 20 are 1.5 times more likely to die during the first 28 days than babies born to mothers in their twenties or thirties.

Unintended Pregnancies
Globally, an estimated 216 million married women need, but lack, access to modern contraceptive methods. If women who want to avoid pregnancy had access to these methods, unintended pregnancies would drop by 70%. Reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, in turn, could avert 60% of maternal deaths and 57% of under-five child deaths.5
If no progress is made in curbing child marriages, almost 950 million women will be married as children by 2030, up from more than 700 million today. And by 2050, almost half of the world’s child brides will be African.
Education is a critical part of the solution. Girls who have little or no education are up to six times more likely to be married as children than girls who have secondary schooling.
Deficient Health Workforce
By 2035, the world will need an additional 12.9 million health workers.
In recent years, Bangladesh has made solid progress in reducing mortality rates among children under age 5. Part of its success can be traced to the expansion of community-level health interventions. Accelerated progress will depend on expanded and more equitable provision of antenatal care and skilled birth attendance.

Stunting and Overweight
In 2014, 159 million children under age 5 were stunted. Another 41 million children under age 5 were overweight ““ and their number is rising. Stunting and other forms of undernutrition reflect societal inequities; stunting can serve as a marker for poverty. In Africa and Asia, 11% of GNP is lost due to poor nutrition.
Eliminating malnutrition in young children has several benefits. It could improve school attainment by at least one year, reduce poverty, empower women and, in turn, break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
(Note: These are only selective highlights of the Unicef Report. For a full version, long onto: http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf