Fifteen years ago in September, United Nations leaders came together to agree on Millenium Development Goals, a framework by which progress would be measured to improve life for everyone. Although forward progress has been made over the years, millions of children throughout the world are still suffering. This year, 2015, was identified as the target date for the accomplishment of many of their goals. Despite the progress, when rates of improvements are adjusted for population growth, it becomes clear that a great deal more is necessary to solve the problems that plague our children.
UNICEF monitors the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and publishes its findings in the Progress for Children report, updated this month. The MDGs encompass a number of specific problem areas. The primary objective is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, which even Pope Francis agrees is one of the biggest problems facing humanity. The MDGs also set forth standards for improving children’s health, access to education, and promoting gender equality. In total, eight separate goals are broken down into measurable objectives, such as guaranteed primary school education for all boys and girls by 2015, and reducing by two-thirds the mortality rate for children under the age of five.
The improvements UNICEF has measured worldwide are encouraging. Overall, extreme poverty has seen a mild reduction. In Kenya, for instance, 17% of people were living on less than $1.25 per day in 2011, compared with 44% in 1990. However, 47% of the world’s extreme poor are children under the age of 18, so it’s clear that more effort is needed to help children specifically.
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According to UNICEF figures, the goal for cutting child mortality by two-thirds has fallen short, and instead the number of children who die before they turn five years old has been reduced by only half.
In the realm of education access, the number of children out of school has dropped from 106 million in 1999 to just 58 million in 2012, which seems like a dramatic improvement. However, when population growth is considered and the current rate of progress is maintained, roughly as many children will be out of school in 2030 as there are today.
The MDGs do not dictate how its goals must be accomplished, leaving the logistics up to individual governments and international NGOs to carry out the mission. After looking back on the progress of the past 15 years, one hopes that the figures will inspire leaders and grassroots activists to find ways to help more children than ever before, but it’s not solely up to politicians and aid workers. Each of us must also find a way to help, before it’s too late.
Images via UNICEF