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Achieving the Millennium Development Goals with equity for children

Progress for Children, September 2010
New UNICEF study shows MDGs for children can be reached faster with focus on the most disadvantaged

A view of the Millennium Development Goals

NEW YORK, 7 SEPTEMBER 2010 – The global community can save millions of lives by investing first in the most disadvantaged children and communities, according to a new UNICEF study released today. Such an approach would also address the widening disparities that are accompanying progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The new findings are presented in two publications: "Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals" and "Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity", UNICEF’s signature data compendium.

While great progress is being made in international efforts to meet the MDGs, much more needs to be done over the next five years.

By comparing the effectiveness of different strategies for delivering critical health interventions to those in greatest need, the study found that targeting to the poorest and most disadvantaged children could save more lives per US $1 million (RM 3.19 million) spent than the current path.

“Our findings challenge the traditional thinking that focusing on the poorest and most disadvantaged children is not cost-effective,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake. “An equity-focused strategy will yield not only a moral victory – right in principle – but an even more exciting one: right in practice.”

Need to focus on equity

The study was undertaken in consultation with a range of outside experts, who described the main findings as both surprising and significant.

“The results of the UNICEF study made me think that the equity focus can be persuasive on an instrumental as well as a values basis,” said Lawrence Haddad, Director of the respected Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, author of the blog, Development Horizons, and a participant in the working group of outside experts who reviewed the study’s preliminary modeling.

Key findings of the UNICEF study include:

§ An equity-focused approach improves returns on investment, averting many more child and maternal deaths and episodes of stunting than the alternative.

§ Using the equity approach, a US $1 million investment in reducing under-five deaths in a low-income, high-mortality country would avert an estimated 60% more deaths than the current approach.

§ Because national burdens of disease, ill health and illiteracy are concentrated in the most impoverished child populations, providing these children with essential services can greatly accelerate progress towards the MDGs and reduce disparities within nations.

Effecting global thinking

Progress for Children: Meeting the MDGs with Equity, UNICEF’s signature report on progress toward the MDGs, presents evidence of disparities across a range of key indicators, including between developing and industrial nations, between richest and poorest quintiles within nations, between rural and urban populations, and between boys and girls. Key data include:

§ Children from the poorest 20 percent of households in the developing world are more than twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthdays as children from the richest 20 percent of households.

§ Children in the poorest quintiles of their societies are more than twice as likely to be underweight and face a much greater risk of stunting compared to children from the richest quintiles.

§ Despite great strides towards achieving gender parity in primary education over the past decade, girls and young women in developing regions remain at a considerable disadvantage in access to education, particularly at the secondary level.

§ Of the 884 million people who lack access to improved drinking water sources, 84 per cent of them live in rural areas.

The UNICEF reports are being released in conjunction with a report by Save the Children, "A Fair Chance at Life: Why Equity Matters for Children," which focuses on MDG 4, reducing under-5 mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. The Save the Children report examines the disparities in progress on child survival between the wealthy and less well-off in countries around the world. It asserts that reaching marginalised communities is the key to reducing inequities and achieving MDG 4.

“The Millennium Declaration was designed to improve the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged people,” said Mr. Lake. “We believe this study’s findings can have a real effect on global thinking about how we are pursuing the MDGs, and about human development generally -- helping us to improve the lives of millions of vulnerable children.”



Video footage and high resolution images are available free of charge for the media to use. Please contact UNICEF Malaysia.

With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit to accelerate progress towards the MDGs   The High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly will take place from 20-22 SEPT 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. More.

For more information, please contact:

Indra Kumari Nadchatram
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 292 6872,

Juana Jaafar
UNICEF Media Malaysia
Tel +6012 530 9693,





Progress for Children 2010

Fact Sheets: MDGs 2010

UNICEF Reports 2010
PFC Key Facts 2010
Narrowing the Gap
Speech: Anthony Lake


About the MDGs
All about children
Children protection
Action dates

Millennium Development Goals


Resources: MDGs

Newsline: MDGs

22 September 2010:
Reaching the most vulnerable children

21 September 2010:
MDGs, five years to go

7 September 2010:
The MDGs with equity

16 March 2010:
MDG Progress Report released for UN Summit


UN Summit Newsline

UN MDG Summit 2010


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