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Evidence for action: Making invisible children visible through data

The world made a set of promises to children 25 years ago when it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We promised every girl and boy the right to survive and be healthy. We promised every child the right to an education, to a name and to an identity. We promised that no child should be subjected to violence.

Have we kept those promises? The only way to know is to use data to see how far we have come, and where we still need to go.

Data shows us that fewer children now die before their fifth birthdays and more girls are in school than ever before. While this is good news, data also reveal that even in countries where progress is being made, far too many children are left behind. Globally, Mali has the 8th highest mortality rate for children under five, (128 deaths for every 1,000 live births) behind Sierra Leone, Angola, Chad, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Guinea-Bissau.

About 83,000 Malian children under five die of preventable causes every year in Mali. The youth (15-24 years) literacy rate is low, with disparities between male (56%) and female (39%). The birth registration rate is 81%, which means 19% of children are effectively denied an identity and deprived of services and protections that are theirs by right. In addition, 96% of the richest children – but only 65% of the poorest ones – are registered at birth in Mali.
This marginalization is often hidden by statistical averages, which show overall improvement but mask disparities within nations. Children left behind become ‘invisible’.

UNICEF’s new report – State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers: Every Child Counts - Revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights – exposes some striking inequities. The world’s poorest children, for example, are nearly three times less likely than the richest to have a skilled attendant at their birth. In Mali, 89% of urban households have access to safe drinking water, compared with only 53% of rural households.

Revealing these disparities allows us to understand the barriers children confront, and design and monitor initiatives that make it possible to overcome them.

The report makes a case for data as one of the most powerful tools to drive action, identify gaps, influence decision-makers, and target investments and interventions to reach the most vulnerable children.

Data are making visible the children at greatest risk – those furthest from society’s reach. It is up to decision-makers at all levels, from the halls of government to the grass roots, to make sure that those children – and all children – are granted the opportunity to fully enjoy their rights.

As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child this year, UNICEF challenges the world to use data and evidence to inspire creative thinking and find innovative solutions to the most pressing issues confronting children. This anniversary is an urgent reminder of the promises that have yet to be fulfilled – promises that can mean a world of difference for children.

It remains crucial that the Government of Mali invest in children to improve the lives of the next generation of Malians with hopes that they will become active, invested citizens who are aware of their rights and duties.

Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Mali Representative



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