WASHINGTON: Child marriages have almost been halved over the past 25 years in South Asia, falling from 59 per cent to 30 per cent today, says a UN report released this week.

The report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) marks 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child — the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.

The report highlights historic gains overall for the world’s children in the past 30 years but points out that many of the poorest children are yet to feel the impact.

In the past three decades the number of children missing out on primary school has been reduced by almost 40 per cent.

Thirty years ago, polio paralysed or killed almost 1,000 children every day. Today, 99 per cent of those cases have been eliminated.

But the report also notes that significant obstacles to children’s rights remain, especially for the most vulnerable. Fifteen thousand children under five still die every day, mostly from treatable diseases and other preventable causes.

At the same time, the world’s children face alarming new threats to their survival and well-being, such as climate change and online bullying.

Underlining the achievements, the report notes that gains in child survival and health are matched by leaps in access to schooling and enhanced protection of children from harmful practices.

In 1990, almost 20 per cent of children of primary-school age were not in school; now this ratio is below 10 per cent globally. Gender disparity in access to primary education has largely disappeared in most countries, with some exceptions in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Meanwhile, new risks to children’s rights are emerging, with parents doubting the value of key interventions such as immunisation. Other ongoing challenges include complacency about children’s rights among many governments, donors and the public, and the burgeoning youth populations of low- and middle-income countries in Africa and South Asia.

The report identifies the growth of primary education as one of the greatest gains for children and young people in the past three decades.

Inequities in under-five mortality: Children from the poorest households are, on average, twice as likely to die before they reach their fifth birthday than children from the most affluent households. In some countries, children under age 5 from the poorest households are about three times as likely to die as those from the richest households.

Immunisation: Between 2012 and 2017, across a subset of 72 countries, the rate of immunisation coverage for children in urban settings was 10 per cent higher than the rate for their counterparts in rural areas. In 2018, nearly 20 million children were still at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2019