The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) released a report Wednesday stating that based on current trends, 69 million children under five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million children will live in poverty, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030, unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children.
UNICEF's State World's Children report, painted a stark picture of what is in store for the world's poorest children if governments, donors, businesses and international organizations do not accelerate efforts to address their needs.
The report noted that significant progress has been made in saving children's lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty.
Global under-five mortality rates have been more than halved since 1990, boys and girls attend primary school in equal numbers in 129 countries, and the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide is almost half what it was in the 90s.
However, this progress has been neither even nor fair, the report says. The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished than the richest. Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost 3 times more likely to die before they are 5 than those born to mothers with a secondary education. And girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than girls from the wealthiest households.
On his part, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a press release, "denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures - by fueling intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies."
"We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided," he added.
Although education plays a unique role in levelling the playing field for children, the report added that the number of children who do not attend school has increased since 2011, and a significant proportion of those who do go to school are not learning.
About 124 million children today do not go to primary- and lower-secondary school, and almost 2 in 5 who do finish primary school have not learned how to read, write or do simple arithmetic, it added. Further, the report pointed to evidence that investing in the most vulnerable children can yield immediate and long-term benefits.