Millions of the world’s poorest children are denied a fair start in life and many more will be left behind unless they’re put at the centre of new development goals for 2030, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Tuesday.

World leaders are due to adopt later this year a set of new development objectives, such as ending poverty, reducing child mortality and tackling climate change, to replace 8 expiring U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, are expected to be adopted at a U.N. summit in September.Despite global progress on achieving MDGs, unequal opportunities have left nearly 600 million children living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day, many denied education, healthcare and suffering from malnutrition, said UNICEF.

“The MDGs helped the world realize tremendous progress for children – but they also showed us how many children we are leaving behind,” Anthony Lake, UNICEF executive director said in a statement.

“The lives and futures of the most disadvantaged children matter – not only for their own sake, but for the sake of their families, their communities and their societies.” UNICEF said although the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has fallen to 6 million per year today from 13 million in 1990, children from the poorest families were twice as likely to die as those from the richest households.

The U.N. agency said that because governments often focused on easiest-to-reach children and communities and not those in greatest need, the most vulnerable children were left behind. If current trends continue, it will take almost 100 years for all girls from sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest families to get basic education, said UNICEF. “The SDGs present an opportunity to apply the lessons we have learned and reach the children in greatest need – and shame on us if we don’t,” said Lake.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum. To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletterAuthor: Magda Mis is a Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent, based in London. Image: Five-year-old Nasreen rests with her family’s belongings as she plays under a flyover in Mumbai, India. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui


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