New UNICEF Data Reveals Vast Progress Made for Children, but Disparities Persist

Declaring that 'every child counts', UNICEF today 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.

NEW YORK (January 30, 2014) – Declaring that 'every child counts', UNICEF today 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 has 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.”

Much progress has been made since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was signed in 1989, leading up to the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.

UNICEF's flagship report, The State of the World's Children 2014, states that since 1990:

  • 90 million more children lived past the age of 5 due to progress in delivering immunizations, health, and water and sanitation services.
  • Improvements in nutrition have led to a 37% drop in stunting.
  • Primary school enrolment has increased, even in the least developed countries: In 1990, only 53 in 100 children in those countries gained school admission. By 2011, the number had improved to 81 in 100.

The statistics in the report, titled "Every Child Counts: Revealing disparities, advancing children's rights," also bears witness to ongoing violations of children's rights:

  • Approximately 6.6 million children under 5 died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes.
  • 15% of the world’s children are put to work which compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play.
  • 11% of girls are married before they turn 15, jeopardizing their right to health, education and protection.

The data also reveals gaps and inequities, showing the gains of development are unevenly distributed:

  • The world’s poorest children are nearly three 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.

Much of what is known about the situations of children comes from household surveys and in particular the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS). Designed and supported by UNICEF, MICS are conducted by national statistical authorities and provide disaggregated data on a range of topics affecting children's survival, development, rights and experience of life. To date, MICS surveys have been conducted in more than 100 countries. In the last round of MICS, interviews were completed in more than 650,000 households in 50 countries.

Thirty years have passed since The State of the World’s Children began to publish tables of standardized global and national statistics aimed at providing a detailed picture of children’s circumstances. With the release of an edition of the report dedicated to data, UNICEF is inviting decision-makers and the general public to access and use its statistics - at www.data.unicef.org - to drive positive change for children.

"Data do not, of themselves, change the world. They make change possible – by identifying needs, supporting advocacy, and gauging progress. What matters most is that decision-makers use the data to make positive change, and that the data are available for children and communities to use in holding duty-bearers to account,” the report said.

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Broadcasters:  A video news story is available at http://weshare.unicef.org/mediaresources

To read The State of the World’s Children 2014 In Numbers: Every Child Counts - Revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights and to see additional multimedia material, please visit: http://www.unicef.org/sowc2014/numbers 

For information on MICS, please visit http://www.childinfo.org/mics.html

Twitter: #data4children

About UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy, and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.  

For additional information, please contact:

Marci Greenberg, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212-922-2464, mgreenberg@unicefusa.org

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org