ISLAMABAD: A new Unicef-World Bank analysis estimates that one in six children globally (around 333 million) live in extreme poverty, and warns that at current rates of reduction, the Sustainable Development Goal of ending extreme child poverty by 2030 will not be met.

The “Global Trends in Child Monetary Poverty According to International Poverty Lines”, which for the first time looks at trends in extreme child poverty, finds that while the number of children living on less than $2.15 a day decreased from 383m to 333m between 2013 and 2022, the economic impact of Covid-19 led to three lost years of progress.

According to the analysis, with a staggering 333m children living in extreme poverty in 2022, addressing the structural root causes that affect children living in extreme poverty is imperative.

A key step towards that is to monitor and understand which children and their families are being left behind, what are their characteristics and where do they live, and why existing policy interventions are not effective in curbing child poverty for countries to develop the appropriate policy portfolios to address and end extreme child poverty for good.

The analysis was released ahead of High-level Week of the United Nations General Assembly (18 to 22 September), when global leaders will, among other things, meet to discuss the mid-point of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal of ending extreme child poverty by 2030 will not be met, Unicef-World Bank report warns

Globally, children comprise more than 50 per cent of the extremely poor, despite making up only a third of the global population. Children are more than twice as likely as adults — 15.8pc versus 6.6pc — to live in extremely poor households, lacking the food, sanitation, shelter, health care, and education they need to survive and thrive.

The geographic distribution of children living in extremely poor households shows that Sub-Saharan Africa continues to have both the highest rates of children living in extreme poverty at 40pc in 2022, and the largest share of the world’s extremely poor children.

Crisis in South Asia

South Asia has a rate of 9.7pc of children living in extreme poverty in 2022 (62m), and accounts for 18.6pc of the world’s extremely poor children. Nearly 90pc of extremely poor children in the world reside in either Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.

Rapid population growth, limited social protection measures, and challenging global trends including Covid-19, conflict, and climate-related disasters, have resulted in the steep increase. Meanwhile, all other regions in the world have seen a steady decline in extreme poverty rates, with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa.

“Compounding crises, from the impacts of Covid-19, conflict, climate change and economic shocks, have stalled progress, and left millions of children in extreme poverty. We cannot fail these children now. Ending child poverty is a policy choice. Efforts must be redoubled to ensure that all children have access to essential services, including education, nutrition, health care and social protection, while addressing the root causes of extreme poverty,” says Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell.

While 45pc of extremely poor children live in low-income countries; half of all extremely poor children live in lower middle-income countries. As a result, the design of effective policy portfolios needs to take that into consideration as well, the report says.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2023

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