The infant mortality rate under 5 has more than halved since 1990 and in countries such as Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, and Niger fell by more than two-thirds. Globally, the number of annual deaths among children under 5 years of age due to pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, sepsis, pertussis, tetanus, meningitis, measles, and AIDS has decreased from 5.4 million in 2000 to 2.5 million in 2015. The vaccination programs have reduced by almost 80% the number of deaths due to measles between 2000 and 2014, thus saving about 1.7 million lives. Still compared to 1990, maternal mortality has declined drastically too (- 43%). In 129 States, gender equality has been achieved in primary school and, globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by almost half.
Let us start with a series of positive data UNICEF report provides, to give an injection of hope to a world assaulted by war and violence. Good things exist, they are possible, especially when also the governments decide that it is time to take care of the last. Numbers show that if you want, you can.
We have to keep walking this path, even if it is objectively uphill. Children’s situation in the world is far from being optimal. In the face of the progress mentioned above, there are still pockets of poverty and unspoken anguish.
The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to suffer from chronic malnutrition as their peers from affluent families. Currently, a child born in Sierra Leone is 30 times more likely to die before age 5 than a child born in the UK.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women who risk maternal death in the course of their lives is equal to 1 in 36, whereas in high-income States, 1 woman in 3,300 runs the same risk. In many areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, a child born from a non-educated mother is thrice as likely to die before fifth birthday as a child born to a mother who has received secondary education.
Girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to become child brides as girls from wealthier families. The most uncertain prospect concerns sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 247 million children – 2 out of 3 – live in multidimensional poverty, deprived of the basic things they need to survive and develop. Besides, about 60% of young people between 20 and 24 years of age, who belong to the poorest fifth of the population, has less than four years of schooling behind in this area.
Africa, the periphery of the world par excellence, is a great open question. If present trends continue, according to this report, Africa will go through several negative phenomena by 2030. Half of the deaths cases concerning children between 0 and 5 years of age due to preventable causes (estimated at 69 million children in the period going from 2016 and 2030). Over 50% of the 60 million children of primary school age who will not attend school will be African and 90% of the children who at that time will be living in extreme poverty will be in Africa.
There is still time to change this situation. The data provided at the beginning of this article prove it. But all governments need to commit to it and above all, we need strong international pressure focused more on the rights of the last ones than on the opportunities of the many so-called rich.
Not everything is peaches and dandelions there, we ought to say. In 2014, in the 41 most industrialized countries, nearly 77 million children were living in monetary poverty. Taking pre-crisis levels as a point of reference, after 2008, child poverty rates have increased in 23 OECD countries. In five of them, child poverty rates have risen by more than 50%. In most of the European Union, the percentage of children living in poverty is higher than that the percentage of adults in the same situation.
Marginalized communities such as the Roma population in Central and Eastern Europe, for example, constantly suffer inequalities in accessing and using health services. One Roma child in 5 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one in 4 in Serbia shows moderate or severe delays in growth. In 2012, only 4% of the Roma children between 18 and 29 months in Bosnia and Herzegovina had received all the recommended vaccinations, compared to the 68% of their non-Roma peers.
If the world does not focus on the tragic situation of the most disadvantaged children – according to the UNICEF report “The right Opportunity for Every Child” – by 2030 (end date of the Sustainable Development Goals), 69 million children under 5 years of age will die mostly due to preventable causes, 167 million children will be living in poverty, 750 million women will be married away at a very young age, and more than 60 million children in primary school age will be excluded from school.
(Photo TranterraMedia, from the Internet)