While the British and much of the World’s media dwell upon the EU referendum result, 69 million children will die of preventable causes by 2030, says Unicef.
Nearly half of the 69 million children whose deaths the report foresees will be in sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 247 million children – two in every three – are deprived of what they need to survive and develop.
“Before they draw their first breath, the life chances of poor and excluded children are often being shaped by inequities. Disadvantage and discrimination against their communities and families will help determine whether they live or die, whether they have a chance to learn, and later earn a decent living,” Unicef’s executive director, Anthony Lake, writes. “For the most part, the constraints on reaching these children are not technical. They are a matter of political commitment. They are a matter of resources. And they are a matter of collective will…”
The report’s lead author, Kevin Watkins, said there was a risk that progress on child survival could falter because of a lack of commitment to reducing inequality, despite lip-service being paid to the sustainable development goals, which were adopted at the UN last September. “The truth is that governments have signed up to these commitments on leaving no one behind with absolutely no intention, for the most part, of doing anything that will promote the interests of those who are being left behind…”
Watkins, who is executive director of the Overseas Development Institute and will become chief executive of Save the Children UK in September, says, “To be honest, it’s a travesty. We have one summit after another, we have all these headline pledges, but nothing gets done. We have this talk of no lost generation. Unfortunately, we’ve already got a lost generation now and we need to start moving very urgently to repair that damage…the rhetoric of leaving no one behind, and the reality of what donors and governments do is very, very stark.”
The report says that the World’s most disadvantaged are still missing out: the poorest children are still twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday, and be chronically malnourished, as the richest. In sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is even bleaker: children will be 10 times more likely to die before their fifth birthdays than children in high-income countries by 2030. The continent, one with a wealth of natural resources, will also be home to nine out of 10 children living in poverty. Again, sub-Saharan Africa fares badly with the report forecasting that by 2030 the region will account for more than half of the 60 million children of primary school age who are not in school.