Millions of poor children at risk of dying early: UN

NEW YORK • The number of children who do not attend school is rising, child marriage has not dropped for decades and millions of young children will die mostly preventable deaths by 2030 if global poverty is not addressed, according to the United Nations (UN) children's agency, Unicef.

The officials said the report, "State of the World's Children", is a warning that the so-called Sustainable Development Goals created by the UN last year might not be achieved by the 2030 target date. The goals are a set of 17 objectives for the eradication of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, gender discrimination and other afflictions.

Poor children are twice as likely as rich children to die before age five, and poor girls are more than twice as likely to become child brides in signs of troubling inequality, said the report yesterday.

While noting some progress in halving global mortality rates for children under age five since 1990 and boys and girls attending primary school in equal numbers in 129 countries, the report said such developments have been neither even nor fair, with repercussions for global turmoil.

"Some of the big challenges that we now face, like refugees and migrants, are connected with inequality and poverty," Mr Justin Forsyth, Unicef's deputy executive director, said.

Narrowing that inequity "is good for those children, but it's also good to stop future crises", he said.

The report called for stronger efforts to educate children, noting that on average each additional year of education a child receives increases his adult earnings by about 10 per cent. For each additional year of schooling completed on average by young adults, a nation's poverty rate drops by 9 per cent.

About 124 million children do not go to primary and lower secondary school, a number that has increased by about two million since 2011, Unicef said.

Children of educated women are almost three times less likely to die and more likely to go to school, delay marriage and postpone child- bearing, said the report.

The rate of child marriages among the world's poorest girls has remained unchanged since about 1990, and 15 million girls are married as children every year.

If nothing is done, it said 69 million children will die before age five from mostly preventable causes by 2030, and nearly half of them will be from sub-Saharan Africa.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2016, with the headline 'Millions of poor children at risk of dying early: UN'. Print Edition | Subscribe