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‘Progress for Children’ – UNICEF launches five-year report on Special Session goals

© UNICEF/HQ06-1391/Pirozzi
Martha (6) and her sister stay at a centre for abused and abandoned children outside Cape Town, South Africa. UNICEF is committed to holding governments accountable for child-welfare targets adopted at the 2002 UN Special Session on Children.

By Elizabeth Kiem

NEW YORK, USA, 10 December 2007 – Five years after world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, UNICEF today launches ‘Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children Statistical Review’.

The report is the most comprehensive statistical assessment to date of advances made towards creating ‘A World Fit for Children’ – the vision of the outcome document from the historic 2002 Special Session.

Among its many findings, ‘Progress for Children’ shows dramatic improvement made in reducing the mortality rate for children under the age of five, which dropped below 10 million in 2006 for the first time on record.

The report highlights a wide range of proven interventions for child survival. For example:

  • More than four times as many children received the recommended double dose of vitamin A in 2005 than in 1999
  • The use of insecticide-treated nets in some of the most malaria-prone nations has tripled since 2000
  • And exclusive breastfeeding rose markedly in sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade – in some countries by more than 20 per cent.

Concerns on health and HIV and AIDS

Structured around the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, currently the focus of international aid efforts, ‘Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children Statistical Review’ targets four strategic areas: promoting healthy lives; providing a quality education; protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV and AIDS.

Beyond the encouraging news on child survival, ‘Progress for Children’ finds less improvement on the goal of expanding treatment coverage for major childhood diseases such as pneumonia and malaria.

© UNICEF/HQ06-1391/Pirozzi
Johnson Maisiri, 16, leads a group discussion about living with HIV at a UNICEF-assisted secondary school in Zimbabwe.

More work is also needed to combat HIV and AIDS as the number of people living with HIV continues to rise globally. In particular, only 11 per cent of pregnant women living with HIV in low and middle-income countries receive treatment to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their infants.

Education progress and challenges

One of the most heartening findings of the ‘Progress for Children’ report is that many countries are close to providing universal primary education, meaning that the number of primary-school-age children out of school has declined markedly in recent years. In more than 60 developing countries, primary school enrolment reaches or exceeds 90 per cent.

But enrolment rates, however high, do not guarantee satisfactory attendance rates. In eastern and southern Africa, for example, attendance rates are believed to be as much as 13 per cent lower than enrolment.

Data on secondary school attendance is also a concern. Only 60 per cent of the world’s children of the appropriate age attend secondary school.

Improved data collection

UNICEF has supported enhanced data collection, another priority identified during the Special Session, to compile ‘Progress for Children’.

The improvement in data is a critical factor in the story behind the report. UNICEF has worked for the past decade to improve the technical rigour of the surveys that ‘Progress for Children’ draws upon.

Since 1995, nearly 200 Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) initiated by UNICEF have been carried out in 100 countries and territories, and MICS were implemented in more than 50 countries in 2005-06. Together with the data provided by USAID-supported Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), these surveys constitute the largest single source of MDG information to date.

Baselines on child protection

Before the mid-1990s, critical gaps in data hindered accurate analysis in many key areas – particularly areas such as child protection from abuse, exploitation and violence, which are now covered in MICS and DHS.

“For the first time we have baselines on a range of child protection issues from child marriage to child labour to child discipline,” said Karin Landgren, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection.

‘Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children Statistical Review’ will be the basis of expert discussions to be held this week at UNICEF House and the United Nations, as youth advocates and government leaders gather from around the world for four days of events, panels and forums surrounding two days of General Assembly plenary sessions.






December 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Elizabeth Kiem highlights the findings of ‘Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children Statistical Review’.
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Progress for Children 2007

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