As world leaders gather to sign a momentous international development plan at the 70th United Nations Global Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday September 25th, Save the Children urges them to ensure that no child is left behind in the arenas of health, education, protection, and child survival.
The agency has found that nearly 35 million children’s lives could be saved globally over the next 15 years – or *6,500 lives per day - as a result of strengthening health systems, providing free healthcare for mothers and children, and increasing the number of health workers trained to help sick children.
Building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000, the brand new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out 17 fresh international targets to be met by 2030, including ending extreme poverty, providing better quality education and healthcare for all, ending all forms of violence against children, malnutrition and preventable child deaths by 2030.
‘’We now have a significant and historic window of opportunity to really drive change forwards. World leaders must do everything in their power to ensure that they grasp this opportunity with both hands,’says Jonathan Glennie, Save the Children UK’s director of policy and research.
‘If the SDGs are properly adopted and implemented, they will represent a truly seismic shift in how the world tackles poverty, and will go a long way towards ending the glaring global inequalities that the MDGs began to tackle, but haven’t fully delivered on.’
Indeed, although global efforts to end preventable child deaths have saved tens of millions of lives since the MDGs were set, this overall progress masks major inequalities within countries, with close to two million newborns dying in their first week of life, every year.
In *India, for example, there has been notable progress towards hitting some MDG health targets, but success varies within each of the country’s 29 geographical states. Efforts through the National Rural Health Mission, adopted in 2005, have speeded up progress in child and maternal health, but national MDG targets on child mortality levels will not be reached.
‘India’s health system has been described as a paradox – while it is the leader in the development of low-cost generic drugs and attracting ‘medical tourists’ to private sector clinics, millions of people are pushed into poverty each year as a result of unaffordable health care costs,’ explains Thomas Chandy, CEO of Save the Children India.
‘The country’s narrow focus on specific diseases, such as HIV, TB and malaria, and population groups, has also created silos that have overlooked the broader needs of health systems.’
Similarly, although there has been tremendous progress in global education indicators over the last 15 years, with the number of children out of school falling by almost half since 2000, the world has failed to meet the MDG 2 - achieving universal primary education.
In fact, 59 million primary school-aged children are still not attending classes, and 100 million more are not completing basic primary education.
In *South Africa today, for example, twenty years after the inception of democracy, 70 per cent of children are being left behind simply because of where they live and the circumstances in which they were born, trapped in a cycle of poverty, with only half of all children staying on at school until they are18 years old.
‘Every child has the right to go to school, and South Africa has made significant progress in ensuring that children are attending, with 97 per cent of children now registered, but whilst all of the richest children are finishing primary school, 15% of the poorest children do not even complete their primary education,’ explains Abongile Sipondo, head of advocacy at Save the Children South Africa.
‘For the poorest children who do complete primary school, many are still not able to read, write, or count owing to the poor quality of education they receive, and this has an huge impact on their futures.
‘Whilst there has been some progress to reduce the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children since 2000, progress has slowed down since 2007 and the gaps remain almost exactly the same between rural and urban areas.’
Save the Children, part of the grassroots campaign Action 2015, welcomes the SDG’s wider focus on inclusive and equitable quality education, Universal Health Coverage, health systems strengthening and ending all forms of violence against children, in addition to a continued focus on preventing child and maternal deaths.
So far, 30 million people have pledged their support for Action 2015, which organised tens of thousands of people to take part in mass solidarity rallies around the globe the night before the long-awaited SDGs are signed.
‘All Heads of States meeting in New York this week must put the children who are furthest behind first; ensuring that no one is being left behind by virtue of their gender, age, disability, income, geography, ethnicity or any other status,’ adds Glennie.
- The 35 million over 15 years/*6,500 a day lives-saved figure (page one) was worked out by calculating the difference between (a) the number of children who will die if the current rate of mortality as predicted by the UN Intergovernmental Group on Estimating Child Mortality stays constant all the way to 2030 and (b) the number of children that will die if the rate of mortality decreases linearly every year so that the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals target is met.
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be found here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/topics
- A list of global rallies can be found here: http://action2015.org/light-the-way/
- Action 2015 is a growing citizens’ movement of more than 2,000 organizations, networks and coalitions from over 150 countries united by the belief that 2015 is a critical year for progress in the fight against climate change, poverty and inequality. The action/2015 movement mobilizes the public at critical decision making points to ensure that that as political leaders make decisions this year, they will feel the pressure of millions and millions of people calling on them to take ambitious actionto secure a better future for people and planet. For more on this global movement of people who are demanding change and raising their voice for change, go to www.action2015.org.