280 Million Children Around the World Significantly Better Off Today Than 20 Years Ago

- Yet 1 in 4 children still denied the right to childhood, with children living in or fleeing conflict zones among the most vulnerable -

- U.S. has cut school dropout rates by nearly two-thirds, and teen births by half since 2000 -

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (May 28, 2019) – At least 280 million children, or 1 in 8, are dramatically better off today than at any time in the past two decades, a new report by Save the Children has found. The 100-year-old humanitarian organization’s Global Childhood Report ranks the best and worst countries for children by examining factors that rob children of their childhoods around the world such as child labor, teen pregnancy, exclusion from education, and children fleeing conflict zones.

In the United States, which ranks 36th, the rate of teens giving birth has dropped by more than half since 2000, and school dropout rates have fallen by nearly two-thirds. Tied with China, the U.S. has also cut chronic malnutrition and child marriage by a third, and the rate of children dying before their fifth birthdays by a fifth.

The report finds that since 2000, circumstances for children have improved in 173 out of 176 countries. Globally, there has been progress on every End of Childhood Index indicator but one – children suffering due to conflict. There has been an 80 percent rise in the number of people forced to flee their homes due to conflict – 30.5 million more people since 2000. Ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen have significantly contributed to this surge, as well as protracted conflicts in places including Iraq and South Sudan.

In every other area, however, there has been significant progress for children since 2000:

  • 49% drop in the under-5 child death rate
  • 40% drop in child labor
  • 33% drop in chronic malnutrition/stunting
  • 33% drop in out-of-school children
  • 25% drop in child marriage
  • 22% drop in adolescent pregnancy
  • 17% drop in child homicides

The report calls out 10 factors driving this change for children, which include the Millennium Development Goals, commitments from governments, social investments, new technologies, social media and increased female leadership at all levels.

“We examined 18 years of data – the span of a childhood – and found that sustained investment in child-focused policies has greatly increased children’s chances to grow up healthy, educated and safe,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children.

“Twenty years ago, change at this scale didn’t seem possible – pervasive problems like chronic malnutrition, or hundreds of millions of children out of school seemed too big to tackle. These findings show us that with strong commitments and leadership, we can drive change for children, and quickly.”

Singapore tops the rankings as the country that best protects and provides for its children, with eight Western European countries and South Korea also ranking in the top 10. The most dramatic progress is among some of the world’s poorest countries, with Sierra Leone making the biggest improvements since 2000, followed by Rwanda, Ethiopia and Niger. The Central African Republic is the country where childhood is most threatened, followed by Niger and Chad.

For those countries that made the most progress, including Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Niger, the results showed that political choices can matter more than national wealth. Specifically:

  • Sierra Leone achieved a 99 percent reduction in the number of people forcibly displaced from home, with 1 in every 5 people displaced in 2000, compared to 1 in 700 today.
  • Rwanda has improved on most indicators, 25 years after the Rwandan genocide. Under-5 mortality is down 79 percent, and the out-of-school rate and child marriage rate are both down by 60 percent. Rwanda has also cut child labor, adolescent births and child homicides in half since 2000.
  • Ethiopia achieved a 59 percent reduction in under-5 mortality, 41 percent decrease in teen births, 33 percent decrease in stunting, 30 percent decrease in child homicide, and a halving of the number of children out of school and child marriage.
  • Niger improved most out of any country on the list, in relative terms, with its score more than doubling over two decades and with the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday plummeting by 62 percent.

“While progress has been remarkable, we now need to ensure every last child receives the childhood he or she deserves. These findings make a powerful case for more investment in child-sensitive development – from strengthening legal frameworks, to improving health systems, to empowering teenagers to make life choices that set them on a path to realize their full potential. It all counts,” Miles added.

Read the Global Childhood Report here.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we've been advocating for the rights of children worldwide. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming the future we share. Our results, financial statements and charity ratings reaffirm that Save the Children is a charity you can trust. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


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