Ending child poverty

Supporting governments to monitor child poverty and scale-up cost-effective investment to accelerate progress.

Mother and daughter


The Eastern and Southern Africa region is witnessing an historic demographic change. The child population of the 21 countries in the region is expected to expand by more than 50 per cent, from 260 million in 2020 to almost 400 million in 2050. Investing in children is essential both for the socio-economic development of the region and for its political stability.

Around two out of every three children are affected by multi-dimensional poverty.

Because of a rapidly expanding population, more children in the region are growing up in poverty than in 1990. Child poverty includes monetary and non-monetary dimensions – defined as deprivations of rights and access to essential social services, such as health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, education, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and child protection. Under the non-monetary lens, the latest child poverty reports (see below) indicate that approximately two out every three persons under the age of 18 in the region suffer from multiple deprivations.

The legacy of child poverty can last a lifetime.

Poverty in childhood can have life-long consequences, with the poorest children less likely to access health care or complete their education and more likely to suffer from poor nutrition or emotional and physical violence.

Children who do not reach their full potential cannot contribute fully to social, political and economic growth, and those who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor when they are older, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

It is in every government’s long-term interest to invest in children to prevent, manage and overcome the poverty that threatens their well-being as well as the economic potential of their countries.


All children have the right to a standard of living that ensures their full development. That is why UNICEF works with governments and partners to halve child poverty by 2030 – in line with Sustainable Development Goal 1.

Looking beyond monetary poverty

The starting point is to measure and monitor child poverty in all its forms, which makes it possible to understand the barriers facing child well-being as well as to track progress within and across countries in the region. Since 2017, nearly every UNICEF country office has worked together with government counterparts to analyse monetary and non-monetary child using the latest available household survey (see below). Many country offices have also trained national statistical agencies to produce child poverty reports in-house without the need for outside support.

A cross-sectoral approach to tackle child poverty

UNICEF gathers and analyses evidence on what works, pushing to translate that evidence into concrete policies, investment and actions for children, especially the most disadvantaged. The rich sector-based and cross-sectoral data from the child poverty reports allow UNICEF and government counterparts to identify gaps and effectively scale up investment in cost-effective responses and areas where children’s needs are greatest. To this end, several offices have supported the development of online expenditure and equity platforms at subnational levels that enable continuous monitoring of social sector investment alongside child-related indicators.

At the same time, information on child poverty is used to train staff in finance and social sector ministries so that they can better identify funding needs and ensure that budgets are being designed to address key dimensions of child poverty. Parliamentarians are also equipped with customized information so that they can review budget proposals with a child lens and put forth concrete recommendations so that enacted budgets better respond to children’s needs.