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UNICEF Report Uses Data to Make Every Child Count

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 3 2014 (IPS) - The UN children’s agency UNICEF may have found a direct way to identify the gaps that keep the most disadvantage children from enjoying basic human rights.  UNICEF’s latest report, titled Every Child Counts, shows the importance of collecting data to reveal disparities among the world’s 2.2 million children.

“Data has made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived,” said Tessa Wardlaw, Chief of UNICEF’s Data and Analytics Section.  “Further progress can only be made if we know which children are the most neglected, where girls and boys are out of school, where disease is rampant or where basic sanitation is lacking.”

Statistics in the report show that some 6.6 million children under five years of age died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, in violation of their fundamental right to survive and develop. The report also shares that 11 per cent of girls are married before they turn 15, jeopardizing their rights to health, education and protection.

In the last two decades, achievement also gained with some 90 million children who would have died before reaching the age of five if child mortality rates had stayed the same as their 1990 level, instead, have lived with an improvement in water and sanitation.

Using technology advantageously, UNICEF is able to support grassroots surveys in more than 100 countries efficiently with the help of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) conducted by national statistical authorities. Children who have been excluded or ignored by the average standard can be accounted for using disaggregating data that takes into consideration location, wealth, sex, ethnicity and disability status. So far interviews have been done in more than 650,000 households in 50 countries.

One might ask just how well the data presented can affect the policy making process on a grassroots level, and according to UNICEF’s Senior Advisor of Statistics and Analytics, Holly Newby, the answer is not that simple.

“We are looking at the evidence bases, and using the information to make changes.”  she said. At the end of the day, it is up to governments and officials to decide on whether they want to use the data or not.

“Data does not, by itself, change the world. It makes change possible – by identifying needs, supporting advocacy and gauging progress. What matters most is that decision-makers use the data to make positive change, and that the data are available for children and communities to use in holding duty-bearers to account,” the report explains.

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