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Focus on poorest children for MDGs' success: UNICEF


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If the global community wants to accelerate its pace in meeting the Millennium Development Goals while also bridging the ever-widening disparities within nations, it needs to shift its focus towards the most disadvantaged and poorest children of the world. Besides being a moral victory, this strategy would be practical too since this alone can save more lives per US $1 million spent than the current path, according to a recently released UNICEF study.

Key findings of the study include an equity-focused approach improves returns on investment, averting many more child and maternal deaths and episodes of stunting than the alternative. This year, the study reveals that, in the push to meet the development goals by their 2015 target date, the very poor are falling further and further behind.

Using the equity approach, a US $1 million investment in reducing under-five deaths in a low-income, high-mortality country would avert an estimated 60% more deaths than the current approach. Besides it states that since national burdens of disease, ill health and illiteracy are concentrated in the most impoverished child populations, targeting these children with essential services can greatly accelerate progress towards the MDGs and reduce disparities within nations.

“Our findings challenge the traditional thinking that focusing on the poorest and most disadvantaged children is not cost-effective,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director. “An equity-focused strategy will yield not only a moral victory – right in principle – but an even more exciting one: right in practice.”

In 2000, world leaders adopted the UN Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to make the world a more equitable place and setting out a series of time-bound targets that have become known as the MDGs. Every year, UNICEF’s flagship ‘Progress for Children’ report monitors progress towards these targets.

The new findings are presented in two publications: Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals and Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity, UNICEF’s signature data compendium.

Complete study can be accessed at: http://www.unicef.org/policyanalysis/media_55913.html

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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