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Statement by Jean Gough, UNICEF South Asia Regional Director, on UNICEF's 70th Anniversary

On 11 December 2016, UNICEF marks 70 years of relentless work in the world’s toughest places to bring life-saving aid and long-term support to children whose lives and futures are endangered by conflict, crises, poverty, inequality and discrimination.  

Globally the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has more than halved in the past 25 years. Hundreds of millions of children have been lifted out of poverty. Out-of-school rates among primary-school-aged children have reduced by more than 40 per cent between 1990 and 2014. 

But despite impressive progress, many children are being left behind. 


Because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic group or disability
Because they live in poverty or in hard-to-reach communities
or, simply
Because they are children. 

Every child – especially the most vulnerable – deserve a fair chance in life – a chance to complete a quality education and contribute fully to a peaceful and prosperous future for themselves and their communities.

In South Asia, despite economic growth and consequent improvements in realizing the rights of children, massive disparities still exist preventing children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures:

  • South Asia alone had more than one million newborn deaths last year.
  • About five million children are under-immunized in the region.
  • 38 percent of South Asia’s children under five years of age – about 64 million children – have stunted growth due to chronic nutritional deprivation.  
  • There are an estimated 33 million primary and lower secondary out-of-school children in South Asia in 2016. 
  • Almost half (45%) of all girls in South Asia marry before their 18th birthday.
  • The majority of the world’s open defecators (610 million in 2015) live here. 
  • Two countries of South Asia remain polio-endemic.

The numbers look bleak and even overwhelming! But together with our full commitment and perseverance, we can change these numbers for better, for our children and their future. 

How can we expect children to learn to respect the rights of others if their own rights are violated? How will they view the world, and their responsibility to it? 

We, at UNICEF, are steadfast in our determination to protect children’s rights to survive and thrive, to learn and to grow up healthy and safe from harm. To stand up for children everywhere … and for every child. 

But we also know that we cannot do it alone. We must unite for children in the region and across the globe in order to deliver these results for children. 

And, we must act now. The hope of the world rests in the coming generations. 


UNICEF was established in 1946 by the United Nations to safeguard the lives of children struggling to survive in the aftermath of World War II – and in doing so, to help rebuild destroyed societies and restore hope for a better future. In 2016, UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories. In South Asia UNICEF works in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.



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