Unicef’s latest data reveal disparities, show need to innovate to advance children’s rights

Manash Pratim Gohain,TNN | Jan 30, 2014, 10.00 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Declaring that 'every child counts', Unicef on Thursday urged greater effort and innovation to identify and address the gaps that prevent the most disadvantaged of the world's 2.2 billion children from enjoying their rights. 

The children's agency, in a report released today, highlights the importance of data 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." 

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 the Unicef's flagship report, The State of the World's Children 2014 in Numbers shows that around 90 million children who would have died before reaching the age of five if child mortality rates had stuck at their 1990 level have, instead, lived. In large measure, this is because of progress in delivering immunizations, health, and water and sanitation services. 

The report also highlights that improvements in nutrition have led to a 37% drop in stunting since 1990 and that primary school enrolment has increased, even in the least developed countries. While in 1990 only 53 in 100 children in those countries gained school admission, by 2011 the number had improved to 81 in 100. 

However the report titled 'Every Child Counts: Revealing disparities, advancing children's rights,' also cited ongoing violations of children's rights. It stated that around 6.6 million children under five years of age died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, in violation of their fundamental right to survive and develop. And 15% of the world's children are put to work that compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play. 

The report also revealed that 11% of girls are married before they turn 15, thus jeopardising their rights to health, education and protection. The report also showed reveal gaps and inequities, showing the gains of development are unevenly distributed – for example, 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. In The Niger, all urban households but only 39% of rural households have access to safe drinking water. In Chad, for every 100 boys who enter secondary school, only 44 girls do – leaving them without an education and without protections and services that schools can provide. 

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 urges increased investment in innovations that right the wrong of exclusion. "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," the report says.