LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Over the last two decades, improvements in health, water and sanitation services and immunisation campaigns have saved the lives of 90 million children, UNICEF said in its flagship report.
In the State of the World's Children 2014 in Numbers report, the United Nations' children charity said that greater access to and more accurate data had helped save lives by exposing, for example, disparities in access to services and protection for the world's 2.2 billion children.
“Data have made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived,” said Tessa Wardlaw, chief of data and analytics at UNICEF. “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.”
Innovation in data collection, analysis and dissemination is making it possible to paint a more precise picture of children's needs in different areas. For example, knowing a child's location, sex, economic and disability status makes intervention more inclusive and effective.
UNICEF called on all players to devote more efforts and resources to innovation that can provide experts with more inclusive data.
"Overcoming exclusion begins with inclusive data," the report said. "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."
Despite what UNICEF called "tremendous progress" made since the signing in 1989 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - now approaching its 25th anniversary - like the increase in primary school enrolment, even in the least developed countries, the agency highlighted key issues that need to be addressed urgently.
Among them is the fact that some 6.6 million children under the age of five died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, and that 11 percent of girls are married off before they reach 15, with disastrous consequences for their physical and psychological health.
The study also highlighted how some areas or people have benefited from development while others have been neglected. In Niger, only 39 percent of rural households have access to safe drinking water compared with all households in urban areas.
Below are more highlights from the report:
- Maternal health: Over 70 countries reported new data on the presence of a skilled attendant at birth, a key indicator in maternal health. The world’s poorest children are nearly three times less likely than the richest ones to have a skilled attendant at their birth, increasing the risk that they and their mothers will suffer birth-related complications.
- Large disparities in under-five child mortality rates: High income countries have far lower rates of child mortality – on average 6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, more than 13 times better than 82 deaths per 1,000 live births in low income countries.
- Proportional disparities: In 2012, high income countries accounted for 11 percent of the world’s under-five population and 1.4 percent of global under-five deaths. Low income countries accounted for around 20 percent of the under-five population, but had one third of under-five deaths.