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UNICEF and Save the Children report: Investing in children pays off, progress evident, but need to press on

Meeting in Busan, South Korea: Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

LONDON/NEW YORK, 23 November 2011 - UNICEF and Save the Children UK today issued a report showing that children’s well-being has improved dramatically thanks to increased political will globally, supportive policies and well-focused programmes and resources, but that the gains will be sustained only if the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children are reached.
                                                                                                                                              
The report, called Progress in Child Well-being: Building On What Works, draws on a more in-depth study commissioned by UNICEF and Save the Children UK, and authored by the Overseas Development Institute. 
 
Among the great strides made in the last decades, the report points to a vastly improved child mortality rate.   Compared to 1990, 12,000 fewer children under five die every day in 2010.  Between 1990 and 2008, stunting due to malnutrition declined in developing countries from 40 per cent to 29 per cent. Impressive gains have also been seen in education. In the decade between 1999 and 2009, the number of children enrolled in pre-primary education jumped almost 40 per cent from 113 million to 157 million; 58 million additional children enrolled in primary school; and the number of primary-aged children out of school decreased by 39 million.
 
 “We have seen remarkable results largely because of strong political will by countries, matched by the commitment and support of the international community, especially donors , to invest in the social sector,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.  “We must continue to make investments in the social sector targeted at reaching the hardest to reach — in order to expand those gains and contribute to sustainable economic growth.”
 
One country singled out is Lao People’s Democratic Republic, classified as a least-developed country and one of the poorest in East Asia. The government has been able to increase access to improved sanitation between 1995 and 2008 at an average yearly rate that was the second highest in the world. Improved sanitation means fewer children will die from preventable diseases, more children will go to school, and a healthier general population.
 
The authors cite a number of factors for this progress, chief among them being high-level commitment and supportive policies that place the well-being of children at the forefront.
 
In some countries, such as Bangladesh, strong economic growth has helped to fuel poverty reduction programmes that led to increases in education and nutrition. The country, among those with the highest child mortality rates in the world, recorded a decline in the under-five mortality rate of 67 per cent between 1990 and 2010.
 
Whether from targeted spending by the countries themselves, or through official development assistance, increased resources have played a major role in improved child wellbeing, and in major progress towards realizing their rights. 
 
The report notes that the links between aid and falling child mortality rates are direct and telling in smaller countries in sub-Saharan Africa which received relatively higher levels of aid per capita. An additional annual social sector aid of $0.01 of per capita is associated with a reduction in infant mortality of 0.4 deaths per 1,000 infants.
 
The report comes as welcome news ahead of the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness later this month in Busan , South Korea. Global leaders will meet to review progress in improving the impact of development aid, as the clock ticks towards the 2015 end-game for meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
 
UNICEF and Save the Children UK stressed that despite the gains, much still needs to be done, and more can be achieved with a greater focus on equity—focusing  attention on the poorest households, which have the highest rates of child deaths. UNICEF estimates that the Millennium Development Goal of halving child mortality could be achieved much more rapidly by such an approach, and in 15 low-income countries could reduce up to 60 per cent more deaths for every $1 million invested.
 
Save the Children UK has said that if the 42 developing countries that account for over 90 per cent of child deaths all took an equity-based approach to cutting under-five mortality, and made progress across all income groups at the same rate as for the fastest-improving income group, an additional 4 million child deaths could be averted over 10 years.
 
“We are making the kind of progress which no one would have dared to predict 20 years ago,” said Lake. “The advances of 10 years make it clear that the measurable targets of the Millennium Development Goals have had a galvanizing effect in setting priorities and have been associated with remarkable gains.”
 
“This report shows that when we focus our efforts on the most disadvantaged children, and support them with the necessary resources, the goal of reaching every child can be achieved.”
 
 
The full 120 page report is available for public consultation and comment at http://www.unicef.org/socialpolicy/index_59577.html The final report will be released in early 2012.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For further information, please contact:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media,
Tel +1 212 326 7452,
kdonovan@unicef.org


 

 

 

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