Millions of the world's poorest children left behind despite global progress, new UNICEF report says

'Progress for Children' report highlights lessons from the MDGs & how to course correct with the SDGs

NEW YORK, June 23, 2015 /CNW/ - The global community will fail millions of children if it does not focus on the most disadvantaged in its new 15-year development roadmap, UNICEF warned today.

Progress for Children: Beyond Averages, UNICEF's final report on the child-related Millennium Development Goals that expire in September, says that, despite significant achievements, unequal opportunities have left millions of children living in poverty, dying before they turn five, without schooling and suffering chronic malnutrition.

"The MDGs helped the world realize tremendous progress for children - but they also showed us how many children we are leaving behind," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "The lives and futures of the most disadvantaged children matter - not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their families, their communities and their societies." 

Disparities within countries have left children from the poorest households twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and far less likely to have minimum reading standards than children from the richest households. Continued failure to reach these children can have dramatic consequences.

The SDGs can course correct to save the most vulnerable and Canada's has a role to play
"Canada has a demonstrated track record of saving children's lives and, as the world turns the page from the MDGs to embrace the Sustainable Development Goals this September, Canada must continue this leadership by leveraging its influence to renew the global efforts to end to the preventable deaths of 17,000 children who die every day," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "Issues relating to the survival, development and protection of children must be central to the SDGs and reaching the most vulnerable children must be integrated into all goals. These are the children falling behind. These are the children who are dying from easily preventable causes that have simple, cost-effective solutions."

As world leaders prepare to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, the most disadvantaged children should be at the heart of the new goals and targets, UNICEF said. Better data collection and disaggregation - going beyond averages such as those used to measure the MDGs - can help identify the most vulnerable and excluded children and where they live. Stronger local health, education and social protection systems can help more children to survive and thrive. And smarter investments tailored to the needs of the most vulnerable children can yield short and long-term benefits.

"The SDGs present an opportunity to apply the lessons we have learned and reach the children in greatest need - and shame on us if we don't," Lake said. "For greater equity in opportunity for today's children means less inequality and more global progress tomorrow." 

At current rates of progress, given projected population growth, it is estimated that:

  • 68 million more children under five will die from preventable causes by 2030
  • An estimated 119 million children will still be chronically malnourished in 2030
  • Half a billion people will still be defecating in the open, posing serious risks to children's health in 2030
  • It will take almost 100 years for all girls from sub-Saharan Africa's poorest families to complete their lower secondary education

The Progress for Children: Beyond Averages report highlights notable successes since 1990:

  • Under-five mortality dropped by more than half, from 90 per 1,000 live births to 43 per 1,000 live births
  • Underweight and chronic malnutrition among children under five decreased by 42 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively
  • Maternal mortality decreased by 45 per cent
  • Some 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water sources
  • The gaps between the poorest and the wealthiest are narrowing in more than half of the indicators UNICEF analyzed
  • In many countries, greater gains in child survival and school attendance are seen in the poorest households
  • The gap in maternal mortality rates between low- and high-income countries halved between 1990 and 2013, from 38 times higher to 19 times higher

The Progress for Children: Beyond Averages report also highlights the bad news:

  • Progress still eludes the nearly 6 million children who die every year before their fifth birthday
  • 289,000 women still die every year while giving birth
  • 58 million children who don't go to primary school

Download photos, b-roll, graphs and the audio recording from yesterday's press briefing at:

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit


Image with caption: "Children in the Domiz Refugee Camp in Northern Iraq are among the world's most vulnerable children. UNICEF warns the global community will fail millions of children if it does not focus on the most disadvantaged in the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals. ((c) UNICEF/UKLA2014-04933/Schermbrucker) (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at:

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To arrange interviews or for more information please contact:
Tiffany Baggetta
416-482-6552 ext. 8892
647-308-4806 (mobile)

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