69 million children under five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million will live in poverty, and 263 million are out of school. The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished than the richest. And 750 million females will have been married as children by 2030. These are just some of the figures released by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other international bodies. Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they are five than those born to mothers with a secondary education, says UNICEF’s report. And “Girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than girls from the wealthiest households.”
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, explained: “Children continue to be tortured, maimed, imprisoned, starved, sexually abused and killed in armed conflict. In places such as Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, children suffer through a living hell.”
“Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures – by fuelling inter-generational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake.
In sub-Saharan Africa at least 247 million children – or 2 in 3 – live in multidimensional poverty, deprived of what they need to survive and develop, and where nearly 60 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds from the poorest fifth of the population have had less than four years of schooling, the report warns. At current trends, the report projects, by 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will account for nearly half of the 69 million children who will die before their fifth birthday from mostly preventable causes; more than half of the 60 million children of primary school age who will still be out of school; and 9 out of 10 children living in extreme poverty. The UNICEF report goes on to warn that about 124 million children today do not go to primary- and lower-secondary school, and almost two in five who do finish primary school have not learned how to read, write or do simple arithmetic.
“Today, over 70 million youth are looking for jobs while nearly 160 million are working, yet living in poverty. These figures embody a massive waste of potential and a threat to social cohesion,” wrote Azita Berar Awad, Director of Employment Policy Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO). “Youth unemployment and decent work deficits depreciate human capital and have a significant negative influence on health, happiness, anti-social behaviour, and socio-political stability. They impact the present and future well-being of our societies,” she added.
Meanwhile, the world’s biggest powers continue to spend over $1.7 trillion a year on weapons production and the arms trade.