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UNICEF has just released the 2016 State of the World`s Children report, highlighting that the world`s most disadvantaged children are at great risk if urgent action isn’t taken to close the gap between rich and poor.

The report finds that while tremendous progress has been made globally in reducing child deaths, getting children into school and lifting millions out of poverty, this overall progress has masked glaring, and sometimes growing gaps, between children from the poorest households and those from the richest households.

The most disadvantaged children continue to live and die in unconscionable conditions. In 2015, an estimated 5.9 million children died before reaching age 5, mostly as a result of diseases that can be easily and affordably prevented and treated.

The new Global Goals have three broad objectives over the next 15 years: end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and address climate change. However, if progress is not accelerated, by 2030:

  • An estimated 167 million children will live in extreme poverty (less than US$2 a day), nine out of 10 of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Almost 70 million children under the age of five could die, with children in sub-Saharan Africa 10 times more likely to die before their fifth birthdays than children in high-income countries.
  • More than 60 million primary school-aged children will be out of school, more than half from sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Some 750 million women will have been married as children, three quarters of a billion child brides.

“These vast inequities and dangers do more than violate the rights and imperil the futures of individual children. They perpetuate intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and inequality that undermine the stability of societies and even the security of nations everywhere,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF`s executive director.

“For the most part, the constraints on reaching these children are not technical,” he added. “They are a matter of political commitment. They are a matter of resources. And they are a matter of collective will €“ joining forces to tackle inequity and inequality head-on by focusing greater investment and effort on reaching the children who are being left behind.”

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence said: “Governments around the world must invest in expanding opportunities for children and families at greatest risk. This report signals why urgent action must be taken to shift policies, programming and public spending priorities towards the most disadvantaged.

“Rising inequality is already having a massive impact, including in our own region,” Mr Spence continued. “It is more important than ever that we focus our efforts on expanding opportunity for every child, particularly those who experience vulnerability or exclusion.”

Read the full report here.

*The term ‘equity’ may mean different things in different contexts, however, in this report and elsewhere, it refers to all children having the same opportunities to survive, develop and attain their full potential. Fundamentally, it is about fairness and opportunity, a fair chance for every child.

UPDATE: Here are the letters being delivered! And the video was very well received.

On the eve of Universal Children’s Day, ChildFund Alliance staff in New York will present letters and drawings from children around the world to UN leaders and Member States, and show a powerful 3-minute video of children expressing their views on why rights are important.

The side-event, titled No Child Without Rights: Breaking the barriers of inequality, will be held within the United Nations headquarters on 19 November (8:00 am EST). The event is being sponsored by the Missions of Benin, Brazil and Japan and supported by ATD Forth World, SOS Children’s Villages and ChildFund Alliance.

The letters were produced as part of ChildFund`s Small Voices, Big Dreams project. ChildFund staff ran activities with children to provide a fun and safe way for them to express their views and concerns. One of these activities was a role-play where the children imagined a world leader had come to their school to ask them what they need to make the world a better place.

“We explained that because the world leader is no longer a child, they needed some help to understand what children want and need,” says Raul Caceres, digital program manager at ChildFund Australia. “The children had some very powerful things to say.”

ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence says: “The comments in their letters show that children are acutely aware of issues in their own community but also highlight their compassion and concern for the situation of other children. For example, children in Australia mentioned issues such as war and violence, racism, refugees, early marriage and the need for all children to have a good education. We hope those in a position of power who read these letters will reflect on what children are saying and remember that children are affected by what`s going on in the world.”

Excerpts from some of the children’s letters

Eira, 12, Australia: “There is one thing that makes me feel uncomfortable. Adults are choosing things for kids, referring to what things were like when they were younger. But it’s a new generation, a new time. The world is very different now to the way it used to be. Most adults don’t think about the way issues concern children, just the way it affects them. If kids were given a say, they would feel happy and important. The world would get along and be a much better place.”