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69 million children risk dying from preventable causes, according to UNICEF

UNICEF’s annual report shows progress, yet overall figures remain unacceptable. The UN agency calls for immediate action.

69 million children under age five will die for preventable causes by 2030, the year when the UN programme including the Sustainable Development Goals will end. This is more than France’s entire population. Another 167 million children will live in poverty and 750 million young girls will be obliged to get married.

These appalling figures are included in the last annual report compiled by UNICEF that explains that this scenario is inevitable if governments, international companies and organisations across the world don’t invest in efficient policies aimed at protecting children in the next years.

Significant progress has been made, but it’s still not enough

“Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life – UNICEF’s director general Anthony Lake said – does more than threaten their futures by fueling intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies. We have a choice: invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided”.

Fortunately, the report highlights that significant progress has been made over the years. In particular, global mortality rate for children under age five has decreased by 50% compared to 1990 levels. Similarly, the number of children living in poverty has halved. Deaths from pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, sepsis, whooping cough, tetanus, meningitis, measles and AIDS have decreased 5.4 million in 2000 to 2.5 million in 2015.

Unicef children
A child in the city of Bujumbura, Burundi. According to UNICEF 69 million children will die by 2030 for preventable causes © Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In Sub Saharan Africa the situation is worse

In spite of the progress made, poorer children have double probability to die before turning five compared to wealthier children and to suffer from chronic malnutrition. Most of them live in South Asia or Sub Saharan Africa: in this region the situation is particularly dire with at least 247 million children (two out three) dying every year because they don’t have the means to survive.

Moreover, about 124 million children still don’t have access to primary school. And two children out of five who attended school didn’t learn to read and write, nor to do basic math operations. “Progress so far – said Justin Forsyth, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director – has mainly been made by focusing a lot on children that are easier to reach, or on interventions on health and nutrition with a high impact. What we are finding now is that if we don’t focus on the most disadvantaged we won’t accelerate this progress”.

Covered image: a child working in a factory in Bangladesh © Mohammad Ponir Hossain/NurPhoto/Getty Images

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