World leaders must invest in better data on children

14 September 2016

NEW YORK, 14 September 2016 - UNICEF is calling on world leaders to invest in better data on children, warning in a new analysis that sufficient data is available only for half of the child-related Sustainable Development Goals indicators.

The UNICEF analysis shows that child-related data, including measures on poverty and violence that can be compared, are either too limited or of poor quality, leaving governments without the information they need to accurately address challenges facing millions of children, or to track progress towards achieving the Goals.

To shine a spotlight on the lack of data, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and UNICEF today launched a “time machine” installation at the United Nations in New York. The Time Machine – a capsule structure that demonstrates data through art by translating childhood memories from data into sound - gives visitors and delegates attending the United Nations General Assembly from 14-30 September an opportunity to understand the data on children currently available and areas that fall short.

“The world is committed to eliminating extreme poverty among children by 2030 and to reaching those furthest behind first. If we are going to succeed in achieving these ambitious goals, we first need data that tells us who these children are, where they live and what they need,” said Jeffrey O’Malley, UNICEF Director of the Division of Data, Research and Policy.

Examples of missing data:
• Around one in three countries does not have comparable measures on child poverty.
• Around 120 million girls under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts. Boys are also at risk, but almost no data is available.
• There is a shortage of accurate and comparable data on the number of children with disabilities in almost all countries.
• Universal access to safe drinking water is a fundamental need and human right. We have data about where drinking water comes from, but we often don’t know how safe it is.
• Nine out of 10 children are in primary school, yet crucial data about how many are learning is missing.
• Every day 830 mothers die as a result of complications related to childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable, yet there are critical data gaps about the quality of maternal care.
• Stunting denies children a fair chance of survival, growth and development. Yet 105 out of 197 countries do not have recent data on stunting.
• One in two countries around the world lack recent data on overweight children.

UNICEF has been actively supporting countries to collect, analyse and report data on progress for children for over 30 years. As part of these efforts UNICEF will continue to support direct collection of data through household surveys, and explore how new technological tools can help fill gaps in data.

UNICEF is calling for governments to invest in disaggregated, comparable and quality data for children, to adequately address issues including intergenerational cycles of poverty, preventable deaths, and violence against children.


Notes to editors

Time Machine
UNICEF’s Time Machine is an interactive and experiential installation that will be on display at the Secretariat Building during the UN General Assembly. The installation was built in partnership with Domestic Data Streamers, an agency based in Barcelona that explores new ways of communicating through data storytelling.

The Time Machine is open to media and the public in the Visitors Lobby at the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York until the end of September 2016.

For multimedia content of the Time Machine please visit:

Media contacts

UNICEF Media Team
Tel: +1 212 303 7984


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.

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