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Progress for children in South Asia, but inequalities still exist: UNICEF report

New York, 11 September 2014 – According to a new UNICEF report released today there has been progress in the health and well-being of children in South Asia over the last 25 years, but glaring inequalities remain. 

"More than 2 million children in South Asia die from preventable causes before their fifth birthday ever year and more than 35 percent of the region's children have chronic malnutrition,” said Karin Hulshof, Regional Director for UNICEF in South Asia.

Today’s report analyses progress made over the last 25 years on nine key issues that directly affect the lives of children.  It also provides ideas and recommendations to improve the lives of children across the region.

Key findings from Improving Children’s Lives, Transforming the Future – 25 years of child rights in South Asia include;

  • Approximately 8 million children below the age of one are not immunized
  • More than 45 percent of girls marry before the age of 18, and 18 percent marry before age 15
  • South Asia is home to the largest number of stunted children in the world
  • Nearly 700 million people still defecate in the open
  • Approximately 100 million children under five are not registered at birth

“South Asia continues to be one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth, with the second highest number of maternal deaths worldwide,” Hulshof added. “Far too many children get married, and far too many girls are never born. But together, we can turn the tide.”

Today’s report was published to celebrate this year’s 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

All countries in South Asia have incorporated aspects of the CRC into domestic legislation and have set up ministries and oversight institutions in charge of children’s issues.

In some countries, very progressive legislation has been enacted, establishing children’s legally enforceable rights to health, education, protection and participation.
Yet, pervasive poverty and disparities prevent millions of children in South Asia from living in dignity, reaching their potential and making choices about their own future.

“On the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child we must ensure children and their mothers have access to health services, good nutrition and proper toilets. We also need to provide quality schooling and create opportunities for children. The good news is that we have the knowhow and innovative approaches to make positive changes in the lives of children in South Asia” said Hulshof.

UNICEF South Asia is also marking the 25th anniversary of the CRC by launching "Generation@25" a child rights campaign which focuses on improving girls' education in Afghanistan, preventing stunting in India, ending open defecation in Nepal, and ensuring all children receive a birth registration in Bangladesh. Learn more about the campaign here


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:

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For more information contact:
Jean-Jacques Simon, UNICEF South Asia, Tel: +91  9910532314, 
Sarah Nam, UNICEF South Asia, Tel: +977  9803892356




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