UNICEF Report Says Innovation Can Drive Change to Benefit Every Child

December 18, 2014

On the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, The State of the World’s Children report lays out an agenda for change. The report, recently published by UNICEF, calls for new thinking to address old problems that still affect the most disadvantaged children. In particular, the report calls for innovation – and for the best solutions to be taken to scale to benefit every child.

While the assessment describes the improvements in child mortality rates, water and education over the last quarter century, the report underscores the reality that too many children remain excluded from this progress, and that achievements in child health and well-being have been uneven, with developing countries experiencing the least amount of progress.

Indeed, millions of children live in poverty and inequity. According to the report, the poorest 20 percent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 percent to die before their fifth birthday. Nearly one in four children in the least developed countries engaged in child labor and millions of children regularly experience discrimination, physical and sexual violence, and abuse and neglect.  Nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 percent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. The gap is most dramatic in countries in West and Central Africa. In Burkina Faso, for example, 85 per cent of children in the wealthiest households attended school, compared to 31 per cent of children in the poorest households, the report states.

And, regardless of wealth, girls continue to be held back from schooling.The report states that  for every 100 boys enrolled in primary school in West and Central Africa, only 90 girls are admitted. The exclusion is worse in secondary school, where only 77 girls are enrolled for every 100 boys. Girls are much more likely to be married or in union during adolescence than their male counterparts, and less likely than boys to have comprehensive knowledge of HIV. In South Asia, boys are twice as likely as girls to have this knowledge with which to protect themselves.

In the face of these realities, the report calls for “innovating for equity”— drawing on unconventional sources of knowledge and collaboration, disrupting established processes and structures, and using available resources creatively to produce practical solutions that deliver higher quality or greater impact at lower cost.

Sixty entrepreneurs that are working to solve some of the world’s biggest and most intractable problems in a unique way are highlighted in the report. Some innovations include:

  • Solar Ear, the world’s first rechargeable hearing aid battery charger, developed to meet the needs of communities lacking regular access to electricity; it can be charged via the sun, household light, or a cell phone plug.
  • Community-based management of acute malnutrition (CMAM), a model of care that moves away from the traditional, expensive, low-coverage model of inpatient therapeutic feeding centers run by aid agencies, treats people in their homes with the support of local clinics and using ready-to-use therapeutic foods.
  • New ways to engage Liberian youth in the midst of the Ebola crisis through U-report, a mobile phone-based system developed with young people, that helps examine what issues are most important to them.
  • Floating schools that provide year-round access to education for children living in flood-prone regions of Bangladesh.

At The Hunger Project, our programs target the health and well-being of children. We promote access to early education, strengthen youth leadership and promote nutrition in the countries where we work.

Find out more about what The Hunger Project does to empower girl children.