The State of the World's Children
Flagship report | 40 years of advocating for children
Much has changed for the world’s children since the first The State of the World’s Children report (SOWC) in 1980. Ten per cent of the children born that year died from preventable causes. By 2018, that number had declined to just 3 per cent. Thanks to milestones such as the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, children are now on global and national policy agendas in ways that were not possible in 1980.
The first SOWC pointed out the immense challenges facing the world’s children, but it also celebrated global progress that deserved more recognition, and a “belief — and the evidence — that the worst aspects of this poverty can be banished within the remaining years of this century.” It looked forward to the year 2000 and the potential of solving the problems of poverty. This forward-looking, hopeful yet pragmatic perspective has been consistent for the past 40 years.
In the years since, the report has covered issues ranging from children with disabilities, conflict and war, child labor, urbanization, early childhood development, and much more.
“UNICEF’s work is founded on a criticism of what is, on a vision of what should be and on a strategy from moving from one to the other.”
As UNICEF’s flagship publication, The State of the World’s Children shines a light on pressing challenges and advocates for a stronger policy response, placing emerging issues on the global agenda. SOWC also influences UNICEF’s country programming: Its topics and recommendations provide a steer for the organisation’s priorities, helping to align them with action on the ground. And as a process, it engages with UNICEF offices worldwide to convene consultations and workshops with young people, parents, practitioners, academics, and other stakeholders to highlight issues and set a policy agenda.
Through the report, the Office of Global Insight and Policy strives for richer debate and awareness of child issues in the global discourse, and helps UNICEF drive the conversation and leverage its influence on behalf of children.
Recent years have brought growing awareness of issues around the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. It is common now, especially in high-income countries, to hear these issues spoken of as a “looming crisis”.
In a world where mental health issues are widely ignored and often misunderstood, many young people neither seek nor receive help. Even if they do look for support, most won’t get it — taboos and misunderstanding remain rife in most societies while mental health receives only a tiny fraction of government spending and almost nothing in development assistance.
From the scarce data that exists, it is estimated that mental health conditions affect 1 in 4 people and are responsible for more than 10 per cent of the global burden of disease. Among adolescents, 1 in 5 has a serious mental health problem or a mental health condition.
Against this background, the next edition of SOWC will examine children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing around the world and advocate for effective responses. It will aim to develop a coherent narrative around these issues to help inform public debates around young people’s mental health, to help policymakers get a grip on issues that are not currently regarded as policy priorities, and to help drive and support UNICEF’s work at the global and Country Office levels in the years to come.
For the first time in 20 years, 2019’s SOWC examines the issue of children, food and nutrition, providing a fresh perspective on a rapidly evolving challenge.
Despite progress in the past two decades, one-third of children under 5 are malnourished — stunted, wasted or overweight — while two-thirds are at risk of malnutrition and hidden hunger because of the poor quality of their diets. These patterns reflect a profound triple burden of malnutrition — undernutrition, hidden hunger and overweight — that threatens the survival, growth and development of children and of nations.
At the center of this challenge is a broken food system that fails to provide children with the diets they need to grow healthy. The State of the World's Children 2019 report provides new data and analyses of malnutrition in the 21st century and outlines recommendations to put children’s rights at the heart of food systems.