Setting alarm bells off, UNICEF in their latest report has warned that almost 69 million children may die before reaching the age of five from preventable causes by 2030 across the world if global poverty is not addressed.
“Five countries will account for more than half of the global burden of under-five deaths: India (17 per cent), Nigeria (15 per cent), Pakistan (8 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (7 per cent) and Angola (5 per cent),” UNICEF says in its annual flagship report titled the State of the World’s Children.
The report also reveals that unless inequality is tackled, 167 million children will live in extreme poverty, 60 million won’t be attending primary school, and 750 million women will have been married as children by the year 2030.
Acknowledging education to be one of the key instruments in promoting equity, the focus of the Report launch in India was on Education.
In India, out of the 74 million children as per the census of 2011 in the age group of 3-6 years, about 20 million were not attending any preschool education in 2014 and the children in the poorest families and in marginalised communities are often left behind.
Furthermore, in 2014, more than a third which constitutes 35 percent of the children from the poorest families did not attend pre-school education in India.
The Government’s National Survey for estimation of out of school children conducted in 2014, mentions that in the age group of 6-13 years, more than 60 percent of the children dropped out before completing grade 3.
Releasing the report, Louis-Georges Arsenault, Representative, UNICEF India said, “The early years are foundational and children who start behind, stay behind. There are long-term consequences, particularly for the most marginalised and disadvantaged children, when they enter school without a quality preschool education. And gaps between disadvantaged children and other children become harder to bridge at later points in their education.”
Sonia Sarkar, Communication Officer, UNICEF India, talking with Policy Pulse said the main focus of the report published in India was to highlight the earlier childhood education.
“The report shows that enrolling of children in education has increased dramatically but quality is lacking. So one of the things that have been emphasized in the report was to access earlier childhood education. Apart from that the report also speaks about the need to focus on reducing childhood mortality,” Sarkar said.
Notably, India has toiled hard in the area of education, particularly in ensuring children’s access to school, through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and implementation of the Right to Education Act.
This is reflected in the near-universal enrolment in primary education and the steady decrease in numbers of out-of-school children. The number of out-of-school children between 6 to 13 years has declined from approximately 8 million in 2009 to 6 million in 2014.
“We are heading towards a right direction but yet the number of children not getting education is still very high,” Sarkar said.
UNICEF called on all 193 UN member states to develop national plans that put the most disadvantaged and left behind children first and set specific goals to close gaps between the richest and poorest.
Dr S. C Khuntia, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, Dr Rajesh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, Professor Shyam Menon, Vice Chancellor of Ambedkar University, Delhi, and several other dignitaries from the field of academics, policy, civil society, CSR heads were also present at the launch.
Three parallel sessions were also held after the launch, involving children from the Nine is Mine campaign, youth activists from Youth Ki Awaaz and top CSR heads emphasising that everyone has a role to play to make sure that every child can have a fair start in life. The ‘Fair Start’ film, unveiled recently as part of a UNICEF India led social media campaign, was also screened during the launch. The film focuses on persisting inequities that large group of children in India face, affecting their survival, growth and development.