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UNICEF Warns Disadvantaged Youth Face Death, Poverty

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Displaced Syrian children gather barefoot in a refugee camp near Atma, Idlib province, Syria.

FILE - Displaced Syrian children gather barefoot in a refugee camp near Atma, Idlib province, Syria.

Nearly 70 million children under the age of five could die between now and 2030 if governments and their partners do not step up efforts to meet development goals, warns the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.

In its annual State of the World’s Children report issued Tuesday, UNICEF urges governments, donors and NGOs to focus on the most disadvantaged children and close the gaps, giving all young people a better chance at a bright future.

“These vast inequities and dangers do more than violate the rights and imperil the futures of individual children,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in the report. “They perpetuate inter-generational cycles of disadvantage and inequality that undermine the stability of societies and even the security of nations everywhere,” he added.

The migration and refugee crisis affecting Europe is one example of how inequalities are fueling global instability, said Justin Forsyth, UNICEF deputy executive director.

“A combination of poor governance, conflict, but also inequality and inequity is fueling that instability, which is fueling that mass movement of people,” he said of the migrants on the move from North Africa.

Forsyth says the situation can be improved with small investments in health and education. “We could save up to 147 million children from death from under five [years old] child mortality, just with a 2 percent increase in expenditure in 74 countries.” That translates to about $30 billion a year.

UNICEF is urging countries to develop national plans so they can meet the ambitious targets they have committed to in the 2030 sustainable development agenda.

FILE - A UNICEF aid worker visits a home in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

FILE - A UNICEF aid worker visits a home in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Africa struggling

The report raises the alarm for children in sub-Saharan Africa, where two out of three live in poverty and most have had less than four years of schooling.

Conflict, corruption, poor governance and the effects of climate change are hindering sustainable progress on the sub-continent.

“In those places like DR Congo, like South Sudan, like the Central African Republic, where a combination of conflict and poor governance has meant that they haven’t kept up with the rest of Africa, we need to continue to invest in those places,” said UNICEF Program Director Ted Chaiban.

UNICEF warns that if current trends continue, and 2030 development targets are missed, nearly 35 million African children could die before their fifth birthdays from mostly preventable causes. Those who do survive will have poor primary school attendance and 9 out of 10 will live in extreme poverty.

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