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Millennium Development Goals have Failed the World’s Poorest Children

Posted:  Monday, August 10, 2015

Millennium Development Goals have failed the world’s poorest children, says latest UNICEF report

In it’s final report on the child-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Progress for Children, UNICEF states that while the MDGs have helped drive tremendous advances in the lives of the world’s children, development efforts in the past 15 years have failed to reach millions of the most disadvantaged.

UNICEF warns that without a laser focus on the most disadvantaged, millions more children will be failed by Sustainable Development Goals that the international community is poised to adopt in September to set the global development agenda for the next 15 years.

Here are some of the areas the report highlights that the international community must now focus attention and action on to reach the most vulnerable children and achieve sustainable growth:


Improving children’s nutrition brings about positive changes in productivity, economic development and poverty reduction that contribute to society as a whole. Good nutrition enhances health, cognitive development and school performance.

Action needs to be taken early on, however, as poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can lead to irreversible damage. Exclusive breastfeeding must be a priority in the first six months, with a focus on a balanced and diverse diet from six months on – two areas where much more awareness and action is required as the figures show that less than half of infants under 6 months of age worldwide are exclusively breastfed and that even in the richest countries, young children are not getting a diverse enough diet.


For children, poverty can last a lifetime. Children growing up in poverty often find their life chances limited at each step, from before birth until well into adulthood.

A family’s income or consumption is only one dimension against which to assess poverty for children. Poverty also means lacking access to critical goods and services such as nutritious food, life-saving vaccines, an education, or clean water and decent sanitation – resources that all children need to grow and thrive.

Child Mortality 

Child mortality – a key indicator for child well being – reflects a country’s social and economic development. It tells of children’s access to basic health interventions such as vaccinations, medical treatment and adequate nutrition.

Glaring disparities persist across regions and countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, the risk of a child dying before her or his fifth birthday is almost 15 times higher than the risk facing a child born in a high-income country.

And while disparities between urban and rural children have been narrowing, children in rural areas still face added risk: they are on average about one and a half times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than urban children.

Maternal Health

Providing quality reproductive health services and improving the health and nutrition of mothers-to-be are pivotal not only to reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, but also in addressing many underlying causes of neonatal and child mortality.

While the 45 per cent decline in maternal deaths achieved over the last 15 years is impressive given the rapid population growth in many of the countries where maternal deaths are highest. Still, about 800 women are dying each day from maternal causes, and these deaths are increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. Improved access to antenatal care and skilled health attendance at delivery are necessary to end every preventable maternal death.

Other Facts highlighted in the report

• Every day 16,000 children under 5 will die.
• Nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributable to undernutrition.
• Since 1990, the number of overweight children under five in low-income countries has nearly quadrupled, compared to a decrease of 20% among upper-middle- income countries.
• The prevalence of stunting among children under five is twice as high in rural communities as in urban areas.
• Neatly half of people living in extreme poverty are 18 years old or under.
• Children of mothers with no education are on average about two and a half times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children of mothers with secondary or higher education.
• The lifetime risk of maternal death for a 15 year old girl in West and Central Africa is 1 in 30; globally this figure is 1 in 190.

• Women from the richest households are almost three times more likely to deliver their child with skilled health personnel as women from the poorest.

Read the full report: Progress for Children Beyond averages: learning from the MDGs