Global Annual Results Report 2021: Every child has an equitable chance in life
Goal Area 5: Progress, results achieved and lessons from 2021
In 2021, as UNICEF celebrated its 75th year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to reverberate around the world. The compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict and climate change have had, and continue to have, a devastating impact on child poverty, and its effects will be felt for many years. 2021 estimates suggest that the number of children experiencing multidimensional poverty will increase by a staggering 100 million, with an additional 60 million children living in monetary poverty. This represents the first global increase in poverty for two decades, and compounds child poverty rates that are already high.
UNICEF continued to play a prominent role in supporting countries in the analysis, monitoring, of child poverty and its prioritization in national strategies, in addition to its convening role across all country contexts. Social protection has continued to be a central pillar of UNICEF’s response to the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. UNICEF has helped governments to build inclusive and shock-responsive social protection systems as part of the COVID-19 response in over 115 countries. In a very complex financing context, UNICEF worked to re-affirm its critical role in financing inclusive recovery agenda at global level and continued to provide technical assistance to countries around overall social spending, and to the sectors.
1 in 6 children
in the world is living in extreme poverty
Nearly 20% of children under 5
are extremely poor, compared to 7.9% of adults
100 million additional children
are estimated to be living in multidimensional poverty as a result of the pandemic, a 10 per cent increase since 2019
Child poverty has devastating consequences for children, impacting their physical, cognitive and social development, and affecting the full range of children’s rights that can diminish their life chances and ability to realize their full potential. Children experience poverty as deprivations in their lives, including deprivations of nutrition, health, water, education and shelter – referred to as multidimensional child poverty. In addition, a family’s standard of living, reflected in monetary or income poverty, is a critical element of the deprivations children experience. The impacts of child poverty tend to reverberate outwards, with serious implications for future generations and societies. Children are significantly more likely to live in poverty than adults, and thus early interventions and investment in children and their families are central to breaking the cycles of poverty.
Child poverty in fragile contexts
Children living in countries that experience conflict and fragility are particularly vulnerable to poverty, which is especially worrisome given the growing numbers of countries affected by both recurring disasters caused by natural hazards, and protracted crises associated with fragility, conflict and violence. About 42 per cent of children who live in these contexts reside in extremely poor households, compared to 15 per cent of children in other countries. In these precarious situations UNICEF works hard to highlight the situation of children and their families living in poverty.
UNICEF is working in over 100 countries, including fragile contexts, to support governments to respond to child poverty. Our work includes supporting universal national measurement of child poverty in all its dimensions; using policy analysis and engagement to influence policies and programmes to reduce child poverty; and placing child poverty as the highest priority in national development plans and poverty reduction strategies, including a strong focus on expanding coverage and quality of child sensitive social protection systems.
In Montenegro: Understanding the complex realities of children in poverty and inspiring the expansion a universal child benefit
Prior to the pandemic, one in every three children in Montenegro were at risk of living in poverty. COVID-19 had devastating impacts on children. UNICEF, in collaboration with partners, was able to support the government to place child poverty at the centre of its agenda through evidence, analysis, advocacy and partnerships, which ultimately led to Montenegro’s Parliament adopting a universal child allowance for children up to 6 years (in June 2020), with a focus on providing long-term predictability, and in line with investing in the early years of childhood as a crucial window of opportunity for every child’s development. In December 2021, the Parliament of Montenegro passed a law to expand the child allowance scheme to cover all children up to 18 years. The child allowance coverage rate increased from approximately 13,000 children (10 per cent of all children) in 2020 to 50,000 (38 per cent) in 2021 and is now expected to reach all children (more than 130,000) with this universal scheme in 2022.
Report: Multidimensional Child Poverty in Montenegro
UNICEF’S young reporters launch child poverty reduction campaign with the National Parliament
UNICEF supports Montenegro Social Protection System Assessment to reduce poverty
UNICEF congratulates Montenegro on investing in children in the new budget
Child poverty reduction for a just society in Montenegro
First child allowance - joy for the youngest
In 137 UNICEF country offices
as part of the COVID-19 response, UNICEF worked with governments, development partners and International Financial Institutions to protect and leverage resources for children
In 65 countries
supported national governments to strengthen social sector budgets for better and increased investments for children
In 96 countries
UNICEF public finance work improved the financing of social protection and education services
UNICEF’s work on Public Finance for Children supports countries to articulate their obligations under Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and General Comment No. 19 to ensure social sector budgets are developed and executed with a child rights perspective. This entails helping governments allocate sufficient public resources for sectors and services that are critical for children; improving the efficiency and effectiveness of those resources; distributing them equitably, with special focus on disadvantaged children; strengthening the transparency and accountability of those public financial systems; and promoting citizens participation in budgetary processes.
Making public spending on children’s rights more transparent and participatory
UNICEF supports governments in their efforts to make public budgets more transparent and promotes greater public awareness of how funds are allocated and used. UNICEF also supports community and young people’s participation in budgetary processes. Transparency of social sector budgets and the participation of communities, including young people, is critical to ensure the efficiency and equity of investments for children. In 2021, UNICEF worked in 129 countries (up from 119 in 2020) to promote transparency, accountability, and participation. UNICEF adopts various strategies including establishing social accountability mechanisms, producing citizen’s budgets, sub-national open budget surveys, and community score cards. UNICEF works with a broad spectrum of national and international partners to improve budget transparency, accountability and participation, including the International Budget Partnership.
In Benin: Ring-fencing and expanding social sector expenditure in the context of COVID-19
In Benin, UNICEF established partnerships with the Ministry of Finance, Parliament and Civil Society organizations to monitor and promote budget transparency through technical assistance in development of budget briefs, monitoring social spending expenditure and developing advocacy notes which triggered significant investment in government resources towards girl’s education and wellbeing.
Nearly 133 million children
in 95 countries were reached through UNICEF-supported cash transfer programmes
were supported with building inclusive and shock-responsive social protection systems supporting emergency responses
Social protection has continued to be a central pillar of UNICEF’s response to the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. UNICEF has helped governments to build inclusive and shock-responsive social protection systems as part of the COVID-19 response in over 115 countries, and UNICEF supported cash transfers that reached over 132 million children in 2021, including over 19 million children living in humanitarian settings and over one million children with a disability.
In Tunisia – Leveraging resources for access to inclusive social protection
UNICEF Tunisia successfully advocated for additional funding (US$12 million) from the German KfW Development Bank to expand monthly child benefits for young children aged 0–5 years, enabling the government to afford the increased number of children registered in the national ‘Amen Social’ social protection programme. UNICEF Tunisia also leveraged World Bank funding through the Tunisia COVID-19 Social Protection Emergency Response Support Project, which will sustain the child benefit programme through a budgetary support loan over the period 2022–2023.
Supporting childcare and adolescent employability
In Afghanistan – Scaling up cash transfers for vulnerable families and children
Since August 2021, UNICEF has been rapidly scaling up its cash programmes in response to immediate humanitarian needs and medium-term needs in Afghanistan, paying special attention to gender needs while helping to prevent households from resorting to negative coping mechanisms (from being forced to skip meals to child marriage) and strengthening the basis for a nascent social protection system for longer term impacts. It is hoped that the programme will have long-lasting effects for children in Afghanistan, an estimated 97 per cent who are in poverty. Since the onset of the crisis, UNICEF has disbursed assistance to 266,151 people.
94 UNICEF Country Programmes
across all regions included concrete gender equality objectives
64 UNICEF Country Offices
carried out interventions to confront gender discriminatory roles and norms and promote positive gender socialization
3 million mothers, fathers and caregivers
were reached across 94 countries
To promote positive gender norms and socialization, UNICEF programming focuses on:
Gender-responsive parenting strategies including engaging fathers and male caregivers in caregiving and domestic responsibilities and social and behavior change communication through multimedia platforms
Gender-responsive and gender-transformative social protection efforts with governments and private sector actors to integrate gender-responsive dimensions into social protection programmes that go beyond addressing needs to also working on changing discriminatory structures and practices.
Education and school curricula by ending gender stereotyping in teaching methods, curricula, and training. UNICEF also supports education-related interventions that promote behavior change to address the interlinked challenges adolescent girls face – including gender-based violence (GBV), menstrual health management, teen pregnancy and HIV, among others.
Addressing gender norms linked to harmful practices and violence with numerous stakeholders to address the underlying norms that perpetuate harmful practices like Female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage through social and behavior change communications interventions.
Combating gender stereotypes in media by collaborating with both public and private sectors actors to facilitate the positive representation of gender in media, marketing and advertising to encourage gender-equitable attitudes, inclusion, diversity and self-esteem, particularly among children, adolescents and young people.
In 2021, the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to erode the significant progress made towards gender equality. To combat this, UNICEF redoubled efforts to dismantle underlying gender norms that undermine women and girls and their opportunities. 94 UNICEF country programmes across all regions included concrete gender objectives equality objectives and 64 UNICEF country offices carried out interventions to confront gender discriminatory roles and norms and promote positive gender socialization. These efforts reached 3 million mothers, fathers and caregivers around the world.
UNICEF redoubled efforts to increase awareness among parents, children and communities through online platforms to emphasize gender-responsive parenting support and social norms and behaviour change interventions. An estimated 2.6 million mothers, fathers and caregivers across 87 countries were reached through UNICEF-supported parenting programmes. In 46 countries, UNICEF supported governments to strengthen policies, investment, business practices and public-private sector collaboration on four key areas: parental leave; support for exclusive breastfeeding for six months; affordable, accessible quality childcare; and provision of child benefits and adequate wages.
In 2021, UNICEF continued to support gender-responsive parenting programmes, especially emphasizing father engagement in childrearing, gender-equitable caregiving and domestic responsibilities and worked closely with governments to include gender-responsive elements in existing national parenting programmes. In line with the agency’s norms-based approach to programming, UNICEF launched the gender-transformative parenting programme pilot with 8 countries that will focus their parenting efforts on transforming the underlying gender norms that are at the root of persistent gender inequality.
In Turkey: Engaging fathers and breaking down gendered parenting stereotypes
Ahmed and his 5-year-old daughter Emine are part of UNICEF Turkey’s early education programme that targets disadvantaged communities including refugees and provides them with content and tools to engage with their children. The gender-responsive content includes audio books, parenting guides and tips for how fathers can be more engaged in their children’s lives and shift traditional gender roles by setting an example at home. The programme is being implemented by UNICEF, the Development Foundation of Turkey, and the GAP Regional Development Administration, and has reached 10,499 fathers (6611 Syrian and 3892 Turkish) in 2021.
Dismantling gender norms to end harmful practices against women and girls
In 2021, a confluence of rising conflicts around the world, the worsening impacts of climate change and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to major setbacks in efforts to end harmful practices like child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), with an estimated 10 million more child marriages likely to take place before the end of the decade and an additional 2 million girls could be affected by FGM by 2030, leading to a 30 per cent reduction in global efforts toward eradication.
In response to these rising and complex challenges, UNICEF continued to engage men and boys to promote gender equality and reduce occurrences of gender-based violence (GBV) and other harmful practices.
In Afghanistan: Men and Boys Network
In Kandahar, Afghanistan a Men and Boys Network was set up and focused on providing members with an introduction to gender-based violence risks, prevention and response, GBV Law, action against GBV, referral mechanisms and pathways and women’s human rights. In collaboration with dedicated partners UNICEF is supporting the establishment of 18 MBNs, eight of which are already operational with 176 members in Kandahar.
In 2021, UNICEF supported country offices to better integrate specific gender objectives in their social protection work, with 43 UNICEF country offices now prioritizing increasing girls’ education through their social protection work, 40 offices are targeting GBV prevention, and 36 offices are promoting women’s and girls’ decision-making power. UNICEF also helped enhance gender-responsive education systems with 38% of UNICEF countries reporting having a gender-responsive education system compared to 29 per cent in 2016. In addition, approximately 33 million children (51 per cent girls) benefited from UNICEF’s skill building programmes globally. UNICEF worked closely with numerous private sector partners to illustrate and combat the impact harmful stereotyping can have on outcomes for children. Partnering with the LEGO group, UNICEF launched a D&I Playbook during Advertising Week New York to offer companies working in this area some tools for effecting change. The playbook outlines key principles and definitions around diversity and inclusion that impact on children and play, shares guidance to help companies assess their business, and highlights best practice examples.
4.8 million children
with disabilities across 148 countries reached with UNICEF disability-inclusive development and humanitarian programmes
Over 134,000 children
provided with assistive technology (AT) and accessible products, exceeding the 2021 target of 95,200
55 per cent
of UNICEF country offices systematically included children with disabilities in their response efforts, in emergency contexts
Estimated 2.1 million persons
with disabilities reached by UNICEF with clean water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene, and 245,000 persons with disabilities with access to sanitation facilities, in humanitarian situations
Nearly 240 million children with disabilities are being left behind – 1 in 10 children worldwide. UNICEF’s report, Seen, Counted, Included: Using data to shed light on the well-being of children with disabilities, launched in 2021, confirmed that children with disabilities face multiple and often compounding challenges in realizing their rights. From access to education to being read to at home, children with disabilities are less likely to be included or heard, on almost every measure. All too often, they are not reaching their full potential.
These inequalities have been further exacerbated with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasingly, evidence is showing that children with disabilities and their families have been disproportionately impacted, including through limited access to services.
Furthering inclusive education
UNICEF works to strengthen education systems and capacities so that girls and boys with disabilities have equal access to quality, inclusive education. It is not enough for children with disabilities to simply access school. If schools do not respond to their needs and support their growth, children with disabilities are hindered from full participation in quality learning and their rights continue to be denied. During 2021, UNICEF worked in 124 countries to strengthen laws, policies and plans to support inclusive education. In Mozambique, the Ministry of Education and Human Development launched a new national education strategy for children with disabilities, 2020–2029, with UNICEF support including translation of the strategy into English and Braille.
Improving access to water and sanitation for children and adults with disabilities
Despite facing significant barriers to accessing WASH, persons with disabilities have the same human rights to clean water and adequate sanitation as any other person. Access to WASH facilities for persons with disabilities provides direct benefits to health, education, social inclusion and dignity. Disability inclusive WASH can reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by persons with disabilities and is fundamental to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, which promotes access to water and sanitation for all.
Reducing stigma and invisibility through advocacy and communication
Boys and girls with disabilities experience exclusion in every aspect of their lives. Persons with disabilities face stigma based on multiple identities (for example, their disability group, age, and gender). Working with partners, UNICEF Zimbabwe identified and trained over 500 adolescents and young people with disabilities to become disability champions in their communities, responsible for peer-to-peer support to prevent violence against children. These teams reached over 2,000 children and adolescents with disabilities through peer-to-peer dialogue sessions and advocacy for inclusive communities.
Latin America and the Caribbean:
Europe and Central Asia:
In Romania: Corina #Unlimited
Eastern and Southern Africa:
In Zambia: "I am a child" - a poem by Cleric Tembwe
West and Central Africa:
In Nigeria: How Ummul returned to school
Middle East and North Africa:
In Egypt: A school accessible to all students
In Nepal: Vaccines for the most vulnerable
East Asia and Pacific:
Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement
(54 per cent girls) engaged in UNICEF programmes across 125 countries in humanitarian and development settings
engaged specifically in UNICEF programmes in humanitarian action and more than one million in climate change advocacy.
92 per cent
of UNICEF offices consulted adolescents on their strategic programming decisions
75 adolescent-friendly policies
developed through UNICEF-supported strengthening of systems for adolescent participation in 49 countries (against a target of 48)
Adolescent Participation and Civic Engagement
As per Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have a right to have their views heard and considered in decisions that affect their lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the everyday lives of adolescents; and the harmful effects of the pandemic have not been distributed equally. Those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations have been the hardest hit. This compounding of pre-existing vulnerabilities has intersected with considerations such as gender, poverty and disability to deepen inequalities.
Despite challenges, adolescents are showing resilience and taking action, in line with their fundamental rights, towards a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world. UNICEF is committed to this vision and working not only for but also with adolescents and youth, as equal partners, to ensure that they safely and healthily transition to adulthood with the skills and support needed to enable their success as individuals and as agents of change.
Building skills and capacities of adolescents
Around the world, young people have used their enhanced skills to make change, influence peers, strengthen civil society, and increase the accountability of governments and corporations. Young people’s engagement has enhanced inclusion, social cohesion and violence prevention, and contributed to peacebuilding. UNICEF works with young people as partners to co-create, provide solutions and take action. This is achieved using three strategies: advocacy to influence practices and policies; participation in school, local and national governance; and the provision of information and services to people and communities.
In the context of COVID-19, UNICEF worked to support adolescents with distance learning and engagement opportunities that are equitable and inclusive, emphasizing both the transmission of knowledge and the development of key skills.
In India: Under UNICEF’s Reimagine Education initiative, over seven million young volunteers joined the ‘Young Warrior’ movement, taking action against COVID-19 and promoting learning and upskilling through learning platforms available in the country.
In Bhutan: A partnership with the scouts trained and engaged scouts in helping the most vulnerable children and youth with their online education. Where roads were not passable, scouts travelled on foot to teach. They helped younger children complete their homework, and gave lessons to children with no access to digital devices.
Looking ahead, UNICEF is sharpening the focus of this Goal Area with a focus on reducing child poverty, revamping and reaffirming our focus on public finance for an inclusive recovery, and expanding access to inclusive social protection, including in humanitarian crises and fragile contexts. Strengthening social protection systems’ capacities to respond to shocks will be a priority, as will inclusive, gender-transformative programming that links social protection with other services that are critical to addressing the multiple dimensions of deprivation, as a driver for integrating the poorest families and the most disadvantaged, excluded children into their societies. UNICEF will accelerate its efforts to empower young people to reach their very highest potential: by supporting young people with opportunities to learn, connect and take action to positively transform their lives, their communities, and their society at large.
This report highlights the achievements made possible by the generous contributions of softly earmarked thematic funding received from various partners. UNICEF would like to express it's sincere appreciation for these contribution
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Seventy-four years after UNICEF was established and 31 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the organization’s mission to promote the full attainment of the rights of all children is as urgent as ever.
The UNICEF Strategic Plan 2018-2021 is anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and charts a course towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals and the realization of a future in which every child has a fair chance in life. It sets out measurable results for children, especially the most disadvantaged, including in humanitarian situations, and defines the change strategies and enablers that support their achievement.
Working together with Governments, United Nations partners, the private sector, civil society and with the full participation of children, UNICEF remains steadfast in its commitment to realize the rights of all children, everywhere, and to achieve the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a world in which no child is left behind.
This report summarizes how UNICEF and its partners contributed to Goal Area 5 in 2021 and reviews the impact of these accomplishments on children and the communities in which they live.