Feature story

UNICEF: MDGs for children can be reached faster with focus on most disadvantaged

07 September 2010

UNICEF highlights alarming evidence of growing disparities in the lives of children across a wide range of indicators


Millions of lives can be saved globally by investing first in the most disadvantaged children, young people and communities, according to new UNICEF data released today. Such an approach would also address the widening disparities that are accompanying progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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 flagship report.

While great progress is being made in international efforts to meet the MDGs, much more needs to be done over the next five years, UNICEF argues. The nature of the global HIV epidemic tellingly highlights the disparities between the richest and poorest within and across nations, and the consequences of these disparities. For example 20 countries—nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa—contribute approximately 90% of the global gap in reaching women with drugs to prevent HIV transmission to their babies according the WHO, UNICEF and UNAIDS report Towards Universal Access: Scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector (2009).

Our findings challenge the traditional thinking that focusing on the poorest and most disadvantaged children is not cost-effective.

Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF

Additionally, though significant progress has been made in providing antiretroviral therapy to children who need it, almost two thirds of these children in low- and middle- income countries still lack access to treatment. AIDS remains the main cause of death among under-fives in high-prevalence countries [countries have an HIV prevalence of 10% or more].

Part of Millennium Development Goal number 6 is to have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015. According to UNICEF, for this target to be met priority must also be given to reaching young people, particularly adolescent girls in sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of new HIV infections still occur in the region, which accounts for more than 80 percent of young people aged 15-24 living with HIV.

The report states that because national burdens of disease, ill health and illiteracy are concentrated in the most impoverished child populations, providing 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.”

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UNAIDS Cosponsors:

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)


Video footage and high resolution images will be available at:

Feature stories:

Data shows progress needed on HIV testing and treatment for children and mothers(30 November 2009)

No African child should be born with HIV by 2015 (20 April 2010)


UNICEF Media, New York
Kate Donovan
tel. +1 212 326 7452

UNICEF Media, New York
Janine Kandel
tel. + 1 212 326 7684


Full report: 'Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity' (pdf, 3.89 Mb)

Study: ‘Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals’ (pdf, 229 Kb)