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1.77 billion children aged 0–18 lack access to a child or family cash benefit
by UNICEF, ILO, WHO, WVI, Save the Children
12:50pm 31st Aug, 2023
Sep. 2023
Over 330 million children living in extreme poverty. (UNICEF)
One in every six children is forced to survive on less than $2.15 a day, according to a new report from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said that the effects of the pandemic as well as conflict, climate change and economic shocks, have “stalled progress” on ending child poverty.
She called for redoubled efforts to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including education, nutrition, health care and social protection, while addressing the root causes of extreme poverty.
Globally, children comprise more than 50 per cent of the extreme poor, despite making up only a third of the world’s population.
The majority of children caught in extreme poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest share of the world’s extremely poor children, with limited social protection measures contributing to the situation.
An estimated one in three children in countries affected by conflict live in extremely poor households. Children living in rural settings are also more affected by extreme poverty.
UNICEF warns that, at current rates of reduction, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) of ending extreme child poverty by 2030, or SDG 1, will not be met.
“Seven years ago, the world made a promise to end extreme child poverty by 2030. We have made progress, showing that with the right investments and will, there is a way to lift millions of children out of what is often a vicious cycle of poverty,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
“But compounding crises, from the impacts of COVID-19, conflict, climate change and economic shocks, have stalled progress, and left millions of children in extreme poverty. We cannot fail these children now. Ending child poverty is a policy choice. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including education, nutrition, health care and social protection, while addressing the root causes of extreme poverty.”
* The international poverty lines were updated in 2022. The three poverty lines are:
$2.15 (extreme poverty), $3.65 (lower middle income) and $6.85 (upper middle income). Approximately 333 million children globally survive on less than US$2.15 a day, 829 million children subsist below a poverty line of US$3.65, and 1.43 billion children are living on less than US$6.85 a day.
Sep. 2023
An estimated 194 million children born between now and 2030 will have stunted growth unless world leaders gathering at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit urgently accelerate progress towards meeting the goals, says Save the Children.
The latest findings from Save the Children’s new data visualization tool, the Child Atlas [], expose the grim consequences of global inaction in addressing rising levels of malnutrition, which countries committed to end in SDG2 on zero hunger.
If current stunting trends persist, nearly one newborn on average will be stunted every second over the next seven years.
Stunting damages growth and development in children who are under nourished or have poor nutrition and can have devastating lifelong effects—making them more susceptible to disease and infection and damaging their physical and cognitive development.
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to bear the heaviest burden, estimated to account for 86 million cases of stunting for children born between 2023 and 2030, followed closely by South Asia with 67 million cases. The Eastern Asia and Pacific region is set to witness nearly 22 million stunted children, while the Middle East and North Africa brace for 9.6 million cases, and Latin and Central America anticipate 6.7 million children facing stunted growth.
Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) stand among the top four countries expected to face the highest levels of stunting in the next seven years with over 25% of their populations currently experiencing crisis levels of hunger.
The Child Atlas also found that more than half of projected stunting cases to children born in the next seven years will happen to children living in the poorest 40% of households, underscoring the impact of extreme poverty on children’s development.
While stunting has steadily decreased since 2000, progress has fallen short of the internationally agreed targets of 100 million cases by 2025 or to eradicate all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Nana Ndeda, Head of Advocacy and Policy for Hunger at Save the Children, said:
“About 194 million children born between now and 2030 will suffer from stunted growth–nearly one child every second for the next seven years. That’s more than all the children under 18 currently living in the G7 countries combined.
“The silent crisis of stunting speaks volumes about how much work is still needed to address the global hunger crisis to reach the SDGs by 2030. If we do not eradicate all forms of malnutrition in the next seven years, an entire generation of children will suffer the ripple effects of hunger. Children must be at the forefront of all decisions at next week’s UNGA; their futures depend on it.
“Although immediate funding is critical to saving lives now, we need longer-term solutions and changes to systems that will stop this crisis from recurring. Reactive humanitarian funding is too slow, unreliable, costly and ultimately ineffective to tackle the complex crises of today. World leaders must invest in early warning systems and disaster preparedness to better prepare for future shocks and mitigate the impacts before it is too late.
We also need world leaders to commit to an overhaul of the global financial systems to unlock the finance needed at scale to deliver the SDGs for all people everywhere, in line with the pledge to Leave No One Behind.”
Save the Children is calling on world leaders at the UNGA to address the root causes of acute food and nutrition insecurity. Only by putting an end to global conflict, by tackling the climate crisis and global inequality, and by building more resilient health, nutrition and social protection systems that are less vulnerable to shocks like COVID-19, will we be able to ensure the same warnings are not ringing out again in the coming years.
The child right’s organisation is also calling for greater collaboration, dialogue and investment across sectors with, and leadership by, local communities, to bolster response planning and implementation, as well as our abilities to act early and prevent predictable shocks from turning into crises. Save the Children is also calling on world leaders to scale up low-cost interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition: community-based treatment for acute malnutrition, supporting and protecting breastfeeding, and investing in community and primary-level healthcare.
Sep. 2023
No More Deaths From Wasting: Changing How the World Fights Acute Child Malnutrition, report from International Rescue Committee
Two million children under five years old die every year from acute malnutrition, otherwise known as wasting. Wasting is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in children under the age of five worldwide and increases the risk of childhood mortality 12-fold among kids under five, making it one of the top threats to child survival globally.
But deaths due to wasting are preventable. A proven solution, involving shelf-stable, fortified peanut paste known as Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), exists that helps 92% of acutely malnourished children recover. But 4 in 5 children in need of this treatment still do not have access to this life-saving remedy.
As the global food security picture heading into 2024 looks especially ominous, preventing famine-like conditions and increased child mortality from acute malnutrition must be a top priority. There is an urgent need to save the lives of the most vulnerable— children under five years old—as global food insecurity and malnutrition risks increase.
The international community has an opportunity to make deaths from wasting a crisis of the past. But the current global approach isn’t working, and far too many children are suffering the consequences.
Sep. 2023
Two-thirds of global goals for children’s rights and well-being off-pace to meet 2030 target - UNICEF
At the halfway mark towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), two-thirds of child-related indicators are off-pace to meet their targets, according to a new UNICEF report: Progress on Children's Well-Being: Centring child rights in the 2030 Agenda.
“Seven years ago, the world pledged to eradicate poverty, hunger, and inequality, and to ensure that everyone – especially children – has access to quality basic services,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “But at the halfway mark of the 2030 Agenda, we are running out of time to turn the promise of the SDGs into reality. The consequences of not meeting the goals will be measured in children’s lives and the sustainability of our planet. We must get back on track, and that starts with putting children at the forefront of accelerated action to reach the SDGs.”
The world is still grappling with the effects of multiple crises – COVID-19, climate change, conflict, and economic crises – halting or reversing years of progress. Notably, over the past few years, the pandemic directly contributed to a historic breakdown in immunisation services, and learning poverty increased by a third in low- and middle-income countries. Goals related to protection from harm, learning, and a life without poverty are the furthest from their targets.
To realize the 2030 targets, countries need to accelerate progress. Evidence shows that investing in child rights drives and sustains results for all societies, people, and the planet, as interventions in children’s early years go the furthest toward eradicating hunger, poverty, poor health, and inequality.
UNICEF is calling on countries to put child rights at the heart of their agendas and to significantly increase and safeguard social spending in areas such as health, education, and social protection. Governments and the international community should also increase investments to develop and implement climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.
“We can renew and refocus our efforts and make the world a fairer and healthier place for all. But to do so, world leaders must become champions for children and put child rights at the heart of their domestic policy and budgeting agendas”, added Russell
Mar. 2023
Number of children without critical social protection increasing globally, by UNICEF, International Labour Organization
The number of children without access to social protection is increasing year-on-year, leaving them at risk of poverty, hunger and discrimination, according to a new report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNICEF.
More than a billion reasons: The urgent need to build universal social protection for children warns that an additional 50 million children aged 0-15 missed out on a critical social protection provision – specifically, child benefits (paid in cash or tax credits) – between 2016 and 2020, driving up the total to 1.46 billion children under 15 globally.
According to the report, child and family benefit coverage rates fell or stagnated in every region in the world between 2016 and 2020, leaving no country on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving substantial social protection coverage by 2030. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, coverage fell significantly from approximately 51 per cent to 42 per cent.
In many other regions, coverage has stalled and remains low. In Central Asia and Southern Asia; Eastern Asia and South-eastern Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Western Asia and Northern Africa coverage rates have been at around 21 per cent, 14 per cent, 11 per cent and 28 per cent respectively since 2016.
Failure to provide children with adequate social protection leaves them vulnerable to poverty, disease, missed education, and poor nutrition, and increases their risk of child marriage and child labour.
Globally, children are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty – those struggling to survive on less than US$1.90 (PPP) a day – approximately 356 million children. A billion children also live in multidimensional poverty – meaning without access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water.
Children living in multidimensional poverty increased by 15 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic, reversing previous progress in reducing child poverty and highlighting the urgent need for social protection.
“As families face increasing economic hardship, food insecurity, conflict, and climate-related disasters, universal child benefits can be a lifeline,” said Natalia Winder-Rossi, UNICEF Director of Social Policy and Social Protection.
“There is an urgent need to strengthen, expand and invest in child-friendly and shock-responsive social protection systems. This is essential to protect children from living in poverty and increase resilience particularly among the poorest households.”
“Strengthened efforts to ensure adequate investment in universal social protection for children, through universal child benefits to support families at all times, is the ethical and rational choice, and the one that paves the way to sustainable development and social justice,” said Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department at the ILO.
Social protection is a universal human right and a precondition for a world free from poverty. It is also a vital foundation to help the world’s most vulnerable children fulfil their potential and increase their access to food, nutrition, education, and healthcare.
But worldwide, 1.77 billion children aged 0–18 lack access to a child or family cash benefit, a fundamental pillar of a social protection system. Children are twice as likely to live in extreme poverty as adults. 800 million children are currently subsisting below a poverty line of US$3.20 a day, and 1.3 billion children are living on less than US$5.50 a day.
The report emphasizes that all countries, irrespective of their level of development, have a choice: whether to pursue a “high-road” strategy of investment in reinforcing social protection systems, or a “low-road” strategy that misses out on necessary investments and will leave millions of children behind.
To reverse the negative trend, the ILO and UNICEF urge policymakers to take decisive steps to attain universal social protection for all children, including:
Investing in child benefits which offer a proven and cost-effective way to combat child poverty and ensure children thrive.
Providing a comprehensive range of child benefits through national social protection systems that also connect families to crucial health and social services, such as free or affordable high-quality childcare.
Building social protection systems that are rights-based, gender-responsive, inclusive, and shock responsive to address inequities and deliver better results for girls and women, migrant children, and children in child labour for example.
Securing sustainable financing for social protection systems by mobilizing domestic resources and increasing budget allocation for children.
Strengthening social protection for parents and caregivers by guaranteeing access to decent work and adequate benefits, including unemployment, sickness, maternity, disability, and pensions.
* The urgent need to build universal social protection for children; ILO–UNICEF joint report (136pp):
Jan. 2023
An estimated 5 million children died before their fifth birthday and another 2.1 million children and youth aged between 5–24 years lost their lives in 2021, according to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).
In a separate report also released today, the group found that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period. Tragically, many of these deaths could have been prevented with equitable access and high-quality maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health care.
“Every day, far too many parents are facing the trauma of losing their children, sometimes even before their first breath,” said Vidhya Ganesh, UNICEF Director of the Division of Data Analytics, Planning and Monitoring. “Such widespread, preventable tragedy should never be accepted as inevitable. Progress is possible with stronger political will and targeted investment in equitable access to primary health care for every woman and child.”
The reports show some positive outcomes with a lower risk of death across all ages globally since 2000. The global under-five mortality rate fell by 50 per cent since the start of the century, while mortality rates in older children and youth dropped by 36 per cent, and the stillbirth rate decreased by 35 per cent. This can be attributed to more investments in strengthening primary health systems to benefit women, children and young people.
However, gains have reduced significantly since 2010, and 54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality. If swift action is not taken to improve health services, warn the agencies, almost 59 million children and youth will die before 2030, and nearly 16 million babies will be lost to stillbirth.
“It is grossly unjust that a child’s chances of survival can be shaped just by their place of birth, and that there are such vast inequities in their access to lifesaving health services,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Children everywhere need strong primary health care systems that meet their needs and those of their families, so that – no matter where they are born – they have the best start and hope for the future.”
Children continue to face wildly differentiating chances of survival based on where they are born, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia shouldering the heaviest burden, the reports show.
Though sub-Saharan Africa had just 29 per cent of global live births, the region accounted for 56 per cent of all under-five deaths in 2021, and Southern Asia for 26 per cent of the total. Children born in sub-Saharan Africa are subject to the highest risk of childhood death in the world – 15 times higher than the risk for children in Europe and Northern America.
Mothers in these two regions also endure the painful loss of babies to stillbirth at an exceptional rate, with 77 per cent of all stillbirths in 2021 occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Nearly half of all stillbirths happened in sub-Saharan Africa. The risk of a woman having a stillborn baby in sub-Saharan Africa is seven times more likely than in Europe and North America.
“Behind these numbers are millions of children and families who are denied their basic rights to health,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank and Director of the Global Financing Facility. “We need political will and leadership for sustained financing for primary health care which is one of the best investments countries and development partners can make.”
Access to and availability of quality health care continues to be a matter of life or death for children globally. Most child deaths occur in the first five years, of which half are within the very first month of life. For these youngest babies, premature birth and complications during labour are the leading causes of death. Similarly, more than 40 per cent of stillbirths occur during labour – most of which are preventable when women have access to quality care throughout pregnancy and birth. For children that survive past their first 28 days, infectious diseases like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria pose the biggest threat.
* IPC Acute child malnutrition analysis, news:
Oct. 2022
An estimated 774 million children across the world – or one third of the world’s child population - are living with the dual impacts of poverty and high climate risk, according to a new report by Save the Children.
The country with the highest percentage of children impacted by this double burden is South Sudan (87%), followed by the Central African Republic (85%) and Mozambique (80%).
Generation Hope: 2.4 billion reasons to end the global climate and inequality crisis, developed by the child rights organisation with climate modelling from researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), found that while 80% of children are estimated to be affected by at least one extreme climate event a year, some are at particular risk because they also face poverty and so have less capacity to protect themselves and recover.
The analysis revealed that India has the highest total number of children both living in poverty and bearing the brunt of the climate crisis — up to 223 million children in total. It is followed by Nigeria and Ethiopia, with 58 million and 36 million children, respectively, living with this double burden.
A significant number of children – 121 million – experiencing the double threat of high climate risk and poverty live in higher income countries, with 28 million of them in the world’s most affluent countries. More than two out of five of these children (12.3 million) live in the US or the UK.
In addition, across the globe, 183 million children face the triple threat of high climate risk, poverty and conflict. Out of the total child population experiencing this triple burden, the children in Burundi (63%), Afghanistan (55%) and the Central African Republic (41%) are the most affected.
Save the Children says the climate and inequality crisis is a risk-multiplier, eroding children’s and communities’ resilience to shocks. If it is not urgently addressed, the frequency and severity of humanitarian and cost of living crises are set to increase in the years ahead.
Drawing on insights from the 54,000 children Save the Children heard from in a major consultation conducted between May and August 2022, the report also shows how these multiple, overlapping risks are linked to and exacerbate the current global food, nutrition and cost of living crisis that is causing 345 million people in 82 countries to face a severe lack of food.
Luciano, 12, lives in a displacement camp in Malawi. His family lost their home after cyclone Ana ripped through the island where they lived. His family climbed out of the house and onto a tree, but Luciano’s younger brother was washed away by the floods. Luciano said:
“We moved to the camp because water flooded on the other side of the river and it surprised us at night, when we were sleeping. Our ducks begun getting out of the house including our chickens. They all started being pushed in circles by the waters. We tried to save the ducks and the chickens, but all we managed to save was a few of our clothes. We tried to save more items, but we couldn’t. My little brother was on top of the house. Whilst he was on top, the house collapsed, and suddenly he was gone.”
“At the camp we do not eat enough food. When I used to live on the other side of the river, I was not like this. Now I have lost some weight. But I have hope and I would like to live the life I lived before the floods, again.”
“I am always anxious that the floods will hit again because when they hit last time, they created a stream near our house that can easily flood when it rains.”
Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, said:
“Across the world, inequalities are deepening the climate emergency and its impacts, most notably for children and low-income households.
“Given the scale of the challenge, it would be easy to fall into despair. But we cannot, we must dig deep into our reserves of hope for a greener and more just world. We must work to end the climate and inequality crisis and push for the protection and fulfilment of children’s rights.
“Governments', in particular, the world’s richest countries, whose historic emissions have driven the climate and inequality crisis, must lead the way in unlocking financing for countries that are struggling to protect children from its impacts, including through fixing the global debt relief system and through climate finance - particularly for adaptation and loss and damage”.
This new report builds on ground-breaking research published by Save the Children in partnership with Vrije Universiteit Brussel in 2021, which found that children born in 2020 will on average face seven times more scorching heatwaves during their lives than their grandparents, and newborns across the globe will on average live through 2.6 times more droughts.
The report comes as families across the world battle the worst global hunger crisis this century, fuelled by a deadly mix of poverty, conflict, climate change, and economic shocks, with the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine further driving up food prices and the cost of living. One million people are facing famine across five countries, with estimates that one person is dying every four seconds of hunger.
Oct. 2022
Child Food Poverty: A Nutrition Crisis in Early Childhood. (UNICEF)
What and how children are fed in early childhood determines their survival and shapes their growth, development and learning for the rest of their lives. But millions of children – especially the youngest, the poorest and the most marginalized – do not have access to the minimum nutritious foods they need during the time in their lives when good nutrition matters most.
This brief sounds the alarm on the crisis of child food poverty – a state where young children are not fed the bare minimum number of food groups they need in early childhood. It presents data to illustrate how many children are experiencing food poverty, how many children are living in severe food poverty, what their diets look like, where they live – including in which households, communities and countries – and how these metrics have changed over time.
Across the globe, millions of families are struggling to provide their children with the nutritious food they need to grow, develop, and learn. Today in low- and middle-income countries, 2 in 3 children under five – or 478 million – experience food poverty. These children are not fed the minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop to their full potential.
Even more worrisome, 1 in 3 children under five – or 202 million – live in severe food poverty, meaning they are fed extremely poor diets that include at most two food groups, often a cereal and perhaps some milk. Globally, nearly 90 per cent of children living in severe food poverty are fed breastmilk/ dairy with starchy staples – diets that are severely lacking in nutrient-rich foods such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
The situation stands to worsen as the world grapples with a crushing global food and nutrition crisis that is taking the greatest toll on the most vulnerable children and families.
Oct 2022
Ending Child Poverty: A Policy Agenda, by the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty
This brief highlights the urgency of tackling child poverty and the growing vulnerability of many children around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate crisis, conflict, and economic instability.
The brief reviews the latest data regarding child poverty and highlights best practices in tackling child poverty. It draws on evidence and the experience of over 20 organizations working together in the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty.
It outlines key building blocks for how countries can address child poverty and offers evidence and experience to support national discussion on the best policy options for children.
Build national support by ensuring that reducing child poverty is an explicit national priority. Expand child-sensitive social protection. Improve access to quality public services, especially for the poorest children. Promote decent work and inclusive growth agenda to reach families and children in poverty.
The building blocks are discussed as an entry point to identify the types of policies that can help overcome child poverty and its impacts.
* Are countries committed to ending child poverty by 2030? A review of countries Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF); reports from 2017 to 2022.
How urban fragility, climate change, gender inequality and social exclusion are driving children deeper into extreme vulnerability. (World Vision)
Humanity is on the move. Driven from their rural homes by conflict and climate change, people are heading to the cities in a mass migration that is changing the landscape of poverty. Today the world’s most vulnerable children aren’t just in remote villages or active war zones. Increasingly, they are hidden in places you won’t hear about on the news. Forgotten places where no one wants to live. On the outskirts of the city. Along drainage channels and train lines. Next to waste dumps. In the margins. And they are more vulnerable than ever.

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