Prospects grim for poorest children: Unicef

NEW YORK - Unicef warned of what it described as grim trend lines for the world's poorest children over the next 15 years, saying in a new report that millions of them face preventable deaths, diseases, stunted growth and illiteracy.

The forecasts in the report by Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, suggested that despite reductions of poverty and other deprivations in underdeveloped countries since 2000, as seen in improved national averages, those statistics had obscured a worsening trend among the poorest segments of their populations and may have impeded overall progress.

The report on Monday was described by Unicef officials as the agency's "final report card" on whether children had been helped by the Millennium Development Goals - a group of benchmarks established by the UN in 2000 for measuring progress in reducing poverty, hunger, child mortality, gender inequality, illiteracy and environmental degradation by the end of this year.

These goals are to be superseded by the Sustainable Development Goals, a group of benchmarks for measuring further advances by the end of 2030, which will be a major theme at the annual UN General Assembly meeting in September.

While the Millennium Development Goals had contributed to "tremendous progress for children", the Unicef report said, they also may have indirectly caused the opposite by inadvertently encouraging countries to measure progress through national averages.

"In the rush to make that progress, many focused on the easiest-to-reach children and communities, not those in greatest need," Mr Anthony Lake, Unicef's executive director, said in the introduction to the report.

The report showed, for example, that accounting for population growth, 68 million children younger than five will die of mostly preventable causes by 2030 if current child mortality trends continue, and 119 million children under five will suffer from stunted development.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Prospects grim for poorest children: Unicef'. Print Edition | Subscribe