30 January 2014 – Urging greater efforts to identify and address the gaps that prevent the most disadvantaged of the world’s 2.2 billion children from enjoying their rights, the United Nations released an innovative new report today spotlighting the importance of data in targeting funds and action to reach those who need it most.
“Data have made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived,” said Tessa Wardlaw, Chief of UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Data and Analytics Section on the launch of the agency’s new flagship report, The State of the World’s Children 2014 In Numbers: Every Child Counts – Revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights.
“Further progress can only be made if we know which children are the most neglected, where girls and boys are out of school, where disease is rampant or where basic sanitation is lacking,” she added, indicating the aim of the report,which highlights the importance of data in making progress for children and exposing the unequal access to services and protections that mars the lives of so many.
Tremendous progress has been made since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was signed in 1989 and in the run up to the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, the UNICEF report reveal. Among other examples of progress, it shows that due to improvements in water and sanitation, some 90 million children who would have died before reaching the age of 5 if child mortality rates had stuck at their 1990 level have, instead, lived.
Further, improvements in nutrition have led to a 37 per cent drop in stunting since 1990 and primary school enrolment has increased, even in the least developed countries: whereas in 1990 only 53 in 100 children in those countries gained school admission, by 2011, the number had improved to 81 in 100.
Even so, the statistics in the report bear witness to ongoing violations of children’s rights, including the deaths of some 6.6 million children under 5 years of age in 2012 mostly from preventable causes, in violation of their fundamental right to survive and develop. Other troubling data show that 15 per cent of the world’s children are performing work that compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play.
The report notes that “being counted makes children visible, and this act of recognition makes it possible to address their needs and advance their rights.” It adds that innovations in data collection, analysis and dissemination are making it possible to disaggregate data by such factors as location, wealth, sex and ethnic or disability status, to include children who have been excluded or overlooked by broad averages.
The report urges increased investment in innovations that right the wrong of exclusion.
Data do not, of themselves, change the world, stresses UNICEF. They make change possible – by identifying needs, supporting advocacy, and gauging progress. “What matters most is that decision-makers use the data to make positive change, and that the data are available for children and communities to use in holding duty-bearers to account,” the report says.