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UNICEF report: Over half a billion ‘uncounted’ children live in countries unable to measure SDG progress

Latest data on development progress for children shows over half a billion more live in countries where the SDGs are quickly falling out of reach.

© UNICEF/UN0146018/Schermbrucker
A child carried by a mother attending a clinic where basic health care services are provided to infants and children in the Chibolele area, Ndola, Copperbelt Province, Zambia, 23 November 2016.

NEW YORK, 7 MARCH 2018 – Early assessment of progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals confirms an alarming lack of data in 64 countries, as well as insufficient progress toward the SDGs for another 37 countries where the data can be tracked. 

The UNICEF report, Progress for Children in the SDG Era, is the first thematic report assessing performance toward achieving the SDG global targets that concern children and young people. The report warns that 520 million children live in countries which completely lack data on at least two-thirds of child-related SDG indicators, or lack sufficient data to assess their progress – rendering those children effectively “uncounted.”

Where sufficient data is available, the scale of the challenge posed by the SDG targets remains daunting. The report warns that 650 million children live in countries where at least two-thirds of the SDGs are out of reach without accelerated progress. In fact, in those countries, even more children could face bad outcomes in life by 2030 than now.

“More than half the world’s children live in countries where we either can’t track their SDG progress, or where we can and they are woefully off-track,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director for the Division of Data, Research and Policy. “The world must renew its commitment to attaining the SDGs, starting with renewing its commitment to measuring them.”

The report tracks progress on five dimensions of children’s rights: health, learning, protection from violence and exploitation, a safe environment and equal opportunity. The report quantifies how far short of the global goals the world is currently expected to fall, measured in human costs.

Projections show that between now and 2030:
• 10 million additional children would die of preventable causes before their fifth birthday;
• 31 million children would be left stunted due to lack of adequate nutrition;
• 22 million children would miss out on pre-primary education;
• 150 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday;
• 670 million people, many of them children, will still be without basic drinking water.
“Two years ago, the world agreed on an ambitious agenda to give every child the best chance in life, with cutting-edge data analysis to guide the way,” said Chandy. “And yet, what our comprehensive report on SDG progress for children reveals plainly is an abject lack of data. Most countries do not have the information even to assess whether they are on track or not. Children around the world are counting on us – and we can’t even count all of them.”

The report calls for renewed efforts to address the global data-deficiency, while recognizing that strong national data institutions and capacity take time and investment to develop. The report identifies three principles to underpin this work:

• Building strong measurement into service delivery systems, whether in health or education, social services or border control;
• Systematic and coordinated efforts to ensure all countries have minimum data coverage for children, irrespective of their resources and capabilities;
• Establishing stronger shared norms on data concerning children, including common approaches to measuring emerging threats facing children, capturing missing child populations, and sharing data to enable vulnerable children to be more effectively identified, while protecting children’s privacy.
While each government is ultimately accountable to generate the data that will guide and measure achievement of the goals, the international community has an obligation to partner with them to make sure the SDG targets are met.

Notes to Editors
Of the 44 indicators linked to nine SDGs specific to children, 39 were assessed for data availability and progress. On average, 75-80 percent of indicators in countries either have insufficient data or show insufficient progress.

Multimedia can be downloaded here

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.

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For more information, please contact:
Yemi Lufadeju, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 213 4034, glufadeju@unicef.org




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