Tag Archives: data

Children in Myanmar wash their hands with soap at a hand-washing station, while other students behind them wait their turn to use latrines.

New data cast light on poor hygiene

Children in Myanmar wash their hands with soap at a hand-washing station, while other students behind them wait their turn to use latrines.

Children in Myanmar wash their hands with soap at a hand-washing station. © UNICEF/NYHQ2012-2056/Dean

This week is World Water Week. Each year, leaders and experts meet in Stockholm to discuss global challenges relating to water. This year the conference celebrates its 25th year, with a specific focus is on water for development. There will also be lots of discussion about the broad spectrum of water issues ranging from water resources and climate change to access to the most basic of drinking water and sanitation facilities. There will be some, but all too little debate about the related topic of hygiene.

Four surprising facts on hygiene

  1. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective interventions to reduce diarrhoea and pneumonia, two leading causes of child mortality.
  2. Research studies have suggested that very few people – approximately one in five globally – wash their hands after going to the loo. Whilst these data are limited they certainly demonstrate the scale of the challenge.
  3. Last year the Guinness World record for handwashing was won when almost 13 million students washed their hands simultaneously across over 1,300 schools in Madhya Pradesh, India.
  4. Menstrual hygiene remains a taboo in many settings – with poor knowledge and misconceptions as great a challenge as access to adequate facilities at home as well as at school. Learn more about menstrual hygiene and its impacts on women and girls in the Menstrual Hygiene Matters report.

It also happens to be the 25th anniversary of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation, whose report at the end of the Millennium Development Goals showed that 663 million people still lack an improved source of drinking water and 2.4 billion lack an improved sanitation facility.The ability to track progress on drinking water and sanitation during the last twenty-five years has helped to draw attention to people without basic services and to highlight persistent inequalities both between and within countries. Until recently, far less attention had been given to hygiene, which unlike water and sanitation, was not part of the Millennium Development Goals and has not been systematically tracked at the global level.

An adolescent girl takes part in an handwashing demonstration for a group of adolescent girls in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh.

An adolescent girl takes part in an handwashing demonstration for a group of adolescent girls in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. © UNICEF/BANA2014-01296/Paul

Of the range of hygiene behaviours considered important for health, handwashing with soap is a top priority in all settings. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective interventions to reduce diarrhoea and pneumonia, two leading causes of child mortality. But handwashing behaviours are tricky to measure – people know the “right” answer and are very likely to tell you it if you ask them directly. For that reason, the most practical approach leading to reliable measurement of handwashing is observation of the place where hands are washed and noting the presence of water and soap at that location. This lets you know whether households have the necessary tools for handwashing and provides a proxy for their behaviour. Learn more by reading the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program working paper: Practical Guidance for Measuring Handwashing Behavior.

The data for over 50 countries show consistently low levels of access to handwashing facilities in many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa but also Southern Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo fewer than one in ten people have access to a facility. In countries with higher coverage overall, such as Mongolia – the poorest are greatly disadvantaged: only one in ten have access compared with almost all of those in the wealthiest quintile (96%). Similarly, people living in rural areas are less likely to have access to handwashing facilities – as is the case in Afghanistan where they are only half as likely as people in urban areas. Explore the available handwashing data for yourself using the interactive dashboard on handwashing.

The great news is that hygiene is part of the new Sustainable Development Goals and is specifically mentioned together with sanitation in Target 6.2 which by 2030 seeks to ‘achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all, and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations’. UN member states still need to select an indicator for handwashing to track progress and ensure these ambitions are properly reflected.And you can join the Global Public-Private Partnership for handwashing campaign to advocate for a handwashing SDG indicator. Over the next few years, data will then continue to be collected in household surveys such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys and Demographic and Health Surveys and it will become possible to tell whether and how much the situation has improved. The data will also tell us whether the international community is giving hygiene the attention it most surely deserves.

Explore the interactive dashboard on handwashing:

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Robert Bain is a Statistical Specialist focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene in UNICEF’s Data and Analytics Section in New York.

On 8 May, a girl carries a bucket filled with water, which she will use to wash the dust from ground rocks while panning for gold, at the Gorol Kadje mine, near Dori, the capital of Sahel Region.

In May 2014 in Burkina Faso, child labour continues to act as a barrier to the full fulfilment of children’s rights. According to the latest figures, some 39 per cent of the country’s children aged 5–14 years are involved in labour. One such form of labour – working in artisanal gold mines – leaves children exposed to numerous risks such as injuries and accidents or illness and disease, including of the respiratory system. Children are also vulnerable to missing out on an education or being exposed to sexual abuse and physical and economic exploitation. According to a 2010 study conducted by UNICEF and the Government of Burkina Faso, almost 20,000 children were found to be working in the artisanal gold sites surveyed, and more than 80 per cent of them had never been to school. However, as data on child labor is hard to obtain, it is likely that the number of children working in mines across Burkina Faso is significantly higher. To tackle this issue, UNICEF, in partnership with NGO Terre des Hommes and the Government, has been working in five regions where child labour rates are highest to place children in career training centres and schools.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0673/Nesbitt

Child labour – what does the data tell us?

On 8 May, a girl carries a bucket filled with water, which she will use to wash the dust from ground rocks while panning for gold, at the Gorol Kadje mine, near Dori, the capital of Sahel Region. In May 2014 in Burkina Faso, child labour continues to act as a barrier to the full fulfilment of children’s rights. According to the latest figures, some 39 per cent of the country’s children aged 5–14 years are involved in labour. One such form of labour – working in artisanal gold mines – leaves children exposed to numerous risks such as injuries and accidents or illness and disease, including of the respiratory system. Children are also vulnerable to missing out on an education or being exposed to sexual abuse and physical and economic exploitation. According to a 2010 study conducted by UNICEF and the Government of Burkina Faso, almost 20,000 children were found to be working in the artisanal gold sites surveyed, and more than 80 per cent of them had never been to school. However, as data on child labor is hard to obtain, it is likely that the number of children working in mines across Burkina Faso is significantly higher. To tackle this issue, UNICEF, in partnership with NGO Terre des Hommes and the Government, has been working in five regions where child labour rates are highest to place children in career training centres and schools. © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0673/Nesbitt

A girl carries a bucket filled with water, which she will use to wash the dust from ground rocks while panning for gold, at the Gorol Kadje mine in Burkina Faso.© UNICEF/NYHQ2014-0673/Nesbitt

At the age when children should be in school and learning, millions end up working – sometimes from need and sometimes by force. For this year’s World Day Against Child Labour (12 June), let’s take a closer look at the disturbing data on child labour.

Despite national laws in most countries, there are still 150 million girls and boys aged 5-14 affected globally. In the world’s poorest countries, the numbers get even more staggering: 1 in 4 children there are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health. Those children also miss out on adequate education, leisure and basic freedoms, violating their rights.

Even worse, many are exposed to the worst forms of child labour such as work in hazardous environments; slavery, or other forms of forced labour; illicit activities such as drug trafficking and prostitution; as well as involvement in armed conflict.

And when global and national averages are disaggregated between the rich and poor, urban and rural areas, or by gender, we can see that some individuals and groups are far more affected than others.

In Guinea-Bissau, for example, while 15% of children from the richest wealth quintile are engaged in child labour, a staggering 51% children from the poorest households are too. In Egypt and Columbia over twice as many boys as girls are affected. In Peru, where a child lives can make all the difference – 61% in rural areas work, whereas, in cities the number of affected children is much lower at 18%.

The interactive dashboard below was created by UNICEF’s Data and Analytics section on the occasion of this year’s World Day Against Child Labour. It shows the latest available data on child labour from UNICEF global databases (2014) and draws on data from Demographic Household Surveys (DHS), Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), and other nationally representative surveys conducted in countries between 2005─2012. This data also available in the latest State of the World’s Children Report 2014.

Explore the interactive data visualization yourself:

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Links & further reading:


Karoline J. Hassfurter is a Communications Specialist working in the Data and Analytics Section, Division of Data, Research and Policy, UNICEF New York.

A woman from Madhya Pradesh, India, holds her three-day-old child. Despite being one of the most mineral rich states in India, Madhya Pradesh is one of the poorest with 40% of its population living in poverty. © UNICEF/INDA2013-00389/Romana

Child poverty indicators can help end global poverty

A woman from Madhya Pradesh, India, holds her three-day-old child. Despite being one of the most mineral rich states in India, Madhya Pradesh is one of the poorest with 40% of its population living in poverty. © UNICEF/INDA2013-00389/Romana

A woman from Madhya Pradesh, India, holds her three-day-old child. Despite being one of the most mineral rich states in India, Madhya Pradesh is one of the poorest with 40% of its population living in poverty. © UNICEF/INDA2013-00389/Romana

Eradicating child poverty is one the world’s most important and urgent tasks. Whilst substantial progress has been made in reducing poverty globally, disaggregated data shows that many children are being left behind. The latest disaggregated monetary poverty figures show that children represent nearly half of the world’s extreme poor struggling to survive on less than $1.25 a day.

Many more grow up deprived of their basic needs and rights: 247 million children – or two out of every three children – in 30 sub-Saharan countries are still deprived of two or more deprivations in areas such as water, housing, education, and health which every child needs to survive, develop and thrive.

But child poverty is not just a challenge for children living in the world’s poorest countries and regions of the world. It is estimated that 76 million children live in poverty in the world’s most developed countries, a number that has increased as a consequence of the economic recession affecting most of the developed world. Today, more than ever, child poverty is a universal challenge that requires a global response.

We must do better for our children. Efforts to end poverty and promote inclusive societies cannot succeed when so many children are denied the opportunity to grow free from fear, deprivation and want. Concerned about the devastating effects of poverty on children has brought a new coalition of partners together working to end child poverty. We believe that helping children avoid poverty and overcoming its damaging effects would make a huge difference to their lives, and those of their families, communities and societies.

World leaders set to include an explicit focus to reduce child poverty for the first time
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will replace the set of eight Millennium Development Goals when they expire in 2015 and will be a central part of the UN’s development agenda for the next 15 years. The new development agenda has set a clear roadmap for ending poverty and promoting social inclusion worldwide by 2030 that includes child poverty for the first time.

As part of the future development goals proposed to end poverty in all its forms, current proposals by Member States include a target to at least halve child poverty in all its dimensions. The proposed Target 1.2 reads as follows: by 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

For the first time, the global community has recognized the centrality of children to deliver on their promise to end poverty once and for all, and the need to ensure children are counted in the new post-2015 development goals. It also recognizes the multidimensional aspects of poverty, which matter hugely for the poorest and most deprived children around the world.

Child poverty is measurable and the proposed targets can be monitored using existing data
Given that child poverty is a new focus on the global development goals to end poverty by 2030, the partners in the coalition have outlined specific recommendations to measure progress towards this global goal as part of the new monitoring framework of the post-2015 development agenda. Since the new target explicitly includes children as part of the goal to end poverty, using specific child poverty indicators should be the first step.

Most experts now recognize that poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon, and the coalition recommends both monetary and multidimensional indicators to measure child poverty in the new SDGs. This is particularly important to measure poverty for children, who often experience poverty as the deprivation on the very real aspects of their lives.

Nearly every country in the world uses household surveys to produce poverty statistics. These data can be readily applied to monitor child poverty using monetary and multidimensional approaches in the new framework, and identify global and national child poverty rates according to these different dimensions. An increasing number of countries and organizations have already taken this approach, which can support Member States frame the new indicators to help reduce child poverty as part of the SDGs.

So, please read the policy brief here and let us know what you think on twitter (@AntonioFranco__ and @UNICEFSocPolicy) or in the comments below.

Antonio Franco Garcia is an Economic and Social Policy Consultant at UNICEF HQ

A mother and child from Madhya Pradesh, India. Despite being rich in natural resources like diamonds, Madhya Pradesh is more infamous for its poverty. © UNICEF/INDA2013-00384/Romana

Child poverty: 5 things we learned in 2014

A mother and child from Madhya Pradesh, India. Despite being rich in natural resources like diamonds, Madhya Pradesh is more infamous for its poverty. © UNICEF/INDA2013-00384/Romana

A mother and child from Madhya Pradesh, India. Despite being rich in natural resources Madhya Pradesh is more infamous for its poverty. ©UNICEF/INDA2013-00384/Romana

2014 has been an important year in the fight against child poverty, and one that may make a difference for years to come. Here are 5 things we learned during the year:

1. It has become clear that children are heavily over-represented among the world’s extreme poor. Over 569 million children aged 18 or less are living on less than $1.25 a day. So while children make up about a third of the world’s population, they represent a stunning 47% of those in extreme poverty.

2. Further, recent figures show that in richer countries children are suffering the effect of the economic recession disproportionally – underlining that child poverty is a truly global issue, and one that needs urgent attention.

3. Global commitment to fight child poverty looks to be growing. The year has been marked by a global effort to design an ambitious agenda of Sustainable Development Goals to build from the expiring MDGs. For the first time, children are included in the proposals to eradicate extreme poverty, with the Open Working Group of Member States proposing a target to “reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all age groups living in poverty in all its dimensions” by 2030. This is a potentially transformative target that recognizes the multidimensionality of poverty and seeks to complement the narrower goal of eradicating extreme poverty, measured as living on less than $1.25 a day.

4. We have the data to monitor child poverty globally and nationally. Not only is there new data on children living in monetary poverty in poorer and richer countries, but in over 100 countries in which we work child poverty has been calculated against national poverty lines. There are also now widely established and used methodologies to capture the multidimensional poverty of children – including UNICEF’s MODA, the MPI and the Bristol methodology.

5. Evidence has grown rapidly on the role of social protection systems in responding to child poverty. The Transfer Project, for example, is proving through rigorous evaluation, the impact social protection is having on child poverty in some of the countries where the burden and the challenges are at their highest. And in further signs of hope, social protection systems are a standalone target in the Open Working Group’s Sustainable Development Goal Proposals.

While much has emerged in the last year, some of the most fundamental aspects of child poverty are of course, long-known:

  • that the impacts of poverty are particularly devastating for children and can have lifetime consequences;
  • that the poorest children are likely to die earlier, be malnourished and miss school; and
  • that while children suffer hardest and most immediately, societies suffer too as the potential of the next generation is lost to lower productivity and the inter-generational transmission of poverty continues.

However, amidst these realities, 2014 has offered hope for the future with an emerging global commitment to make tackling child poverty part of the Sustainable Development Goals, including global and national measurement, and expanding social protection systems that can make such a difference to the poorest children.

UNICEF has put ending child poverty at the heart of our Agenda for #Everychild 2015, and the year ahead will be a vital one to turn this agenda into reality. To follow or join our efforts please follow us @UNICEFSocPol.

David Stewart is the Chief of Child Poverty and Social Protection at UNICEF HQ.

 

PFPG2014P-0877

Data is critical to achieving universal primary and secondary education

PFPG2014P-0877

In Niger, children learn at the Seno’s Franco-Arabic School, the only school in the area that offers students the choice of learning in a traditional French-speaking school or in a Franco-Arabic. Data shows that language can be a main barrier to education – when teaching and learning materials are in a language other than the mother tongue, many children stop going to school. © UNICEF/PFPG2014P-0877/Lynch

It is time for a dose of pragmatism: 121 million children and young adolescents are out of school and we do not stand a chance of reaching them by continuing to pursue a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

The optimism of ‘build more schools and they shall come’ will not reach refugees, children who work, children who face discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or disability. Even worse, building more schools will not help the estimated 130 million children who fail to learn basic reading and math skills despite reaching Grade 4.

Simply expanding educational systems has clearly failed to reach all children. As the international community works to establish new development goals, it will be imperative to focus on the children who were left behind.

UNESCO-OOSC-Cover-full.indd

We believe that robust data on out-of-school children can help.
A new report from UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) demonstrates how the latest data and policy analysis can help us move forward. The report, Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children, draws on data from 26 country studies and seven regional studies. Funded by the Global Partnership for Education, it serves as a roadmap to improve the data, research and policies that are needed to reach the most marginalized children.

What data tell us
Data can tell us who the out-of-school children are, where they live, and why they are excluded. Data also enable us to develop and evaluate policies designed to reach excluded children. A new data exploration tool that accompanies the report presents a nuanced picture of out-of-school children around the world and pinpoints the critical factors that drive exclusion. It also shows the ways in which data can be used for effective policymaking, especially when resources are scarce.

The way forward
As the world embarks on a new development agenda, we must invest in better data so we can more effectively reach out-of-school children. Experience from the Global Initiative on Out-School-Children shows some important first steps.

Delve deeper into existing data sources
Administrative data collected by education ministries can be used to determine where and when students start school late or drop out. Household surveys are another rich source. And adding education questions to these surveys would throw brighter light on the most marginalized children. Indeed, information from these sources can unlock valuable insights for policymakers.

Invest in collecting data on vulnerable groups
If we do not target data collection, vulnerable groups will continue to be overlooked. For example, the initiative on out-of-school children has collected detailed data on children who were living in shelters or on the streets in conflict-affected provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The survey was a first step towards developing and implementing effective education policies to provide educational opportunities for these children.

Similarly, in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, a new system has been put in place to monitor children with disabilities – children who are often overlooked by education policies.

Use new technologies to identify and reach at-risk children
Improving links between different national data sources can improve the monitoring of children as they move through the education system. But to benefit truly from advances in information management systems, national and district-level authorities need greater support and training.

And finally, it is critical to increase financial and technical support to national statistical offices and education ministries. Better data and more innovative tools will help governments and donors spend their education budgets more wisely. But these data will also help us reach the world’s most marginalized children.

The Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children – a UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) partnership – works in more than 50 countries to identify which children are out of school, assess the barriers of exclusion and develop innovative policies so they can go to school and learn. The Initiative is funded by the Global Partnership for Education and the World Bank.

Read the report and explore the data

Jo Bourne is the Associate Director and Global Chief of Education, Programme Division, UNICEF.
Albert Motivans is theHead of Education Statistics, UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Video 2 causal attributionss

Impact evaluations reap long term benefits for children

We have an obligation to invest where it makes the most difference for children. But how do we decide what will reap the greatest benefits in the long term?

The dilemma of whether to invest in services that provide immediate benefits, or in evidence generating initiatives for the long term, is a difficult one. The answer requires a careful analysis of the cost of not addressing immediate needs versus the potential future benefits of policy and budgetary change brought about by research and advocacy.

As countries climb up the GDP ladder, UNICEF’s assistance is less critical for basic service delivery. Increasingly, what decision makers from low and middle income countries seek is knowledge and evidence for the design of their own programmes and policies. Investment in sound data, research, and evaluation is an essential component of guiding important decisions for years – and perhaps generations – to come.

Video 2 causal attribution

The Impact Evaluation Series of methodological briefs and instructional videos just released by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, is a contribution to building a “culture of research” at UNICEF and strengthening our capacity to provide evidence-based advice to partners. The series covers a range of impact evaluation designs and methods, including randomized controlled trials (RCTs). It discusses their pros and cons, ethical concerns and practical issues. The series is primarily aimed at UNICEF programme staff but is also available to the public.

How often do we in UNICEF conduct rigorous impact evaluations and invest in evidence for the long term? What are some of the benefits when we do?

The Transfer Project is an example of how UNICEF’s investment in research contributes to evidence-based advice which motivates and empowers governments to effectively support children. This multi-country project runs experimental and quasi-experimental impact evaluations in sub-Saharan Africa, repeatedly providing evidence to governments about the positive effects of social cash transfers on children and their families. The methodological design of choice is RCT, often considered the ‘gold standard’ of impact evaluation. It provides powerful responses to questions of causality by proving that an impact is achieved as a result of a specific intervention (e.g. the cash transfer) and nothing else.

Video 1 building blocks of IE

In Zambia for example, an RCT conducted in three districts from 2010 to 2013 showed that the government’s cash transfer programme led to a wide range of health and nutrition benefits. It also contributed to an increase in productive activity, and ownership of livestock. Encouraged by this evidence, the Government of Zambia boosted its budget allocation for the transfer programme from US$3.5 million in 2013 to 30 million in 2014, with larger amounts expected in the coming years as the programme expands. The overall cost of the evaluation of US$5m will ultimately leverage US$150m for children over the next five years.

Similarly in Kenya, the evaluation of the government’s cash transfer for orphans and vulnerable children programme showed impacts on consumption, diet diversity and secondary school enrolment. It was an important part of the dialogue on the scale-up of the programme which now reaches over 160,000 families. The government’s own contribution to the program increased from less than US$1m in 2006 to US$12.5m in 2013. The evaluation itself cost US$2m and leveraged an increase in US$10m from the treasury for the programme, securing benefits for children for years to come.

video 4 data collection and analysis
RCTs can be costly. They require a large sample size and cannot be undertaken retrospectively. The random assignment they require can sometimes be perceived as unethical or politically sensitive and in such cases other options, such as quasi-, or non-experimental designs for evaluating impact need to be considered.

The new Impact Evaluation Series briefs outline different options for conducting an impact evaluation, are written in accessible language, and use examples from UNICEF’s own work. They are accompanied by animated videos particularly useful to impact evaluation novices or for training purposes. The overarching aim of these tools is to contribute to building UNICEF’s capacity in research and evaluation, improving our ability to provide evidence-based, strategic guidance on children for the long term.

The materials were written by international evaluation experts from RMIT University, BetterEvaluation and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). An advisory board comprised of UNICEF staff from the Evaluation Office, Data & Analytics section, the Programme Division and many Country and Regional Office guided the quality and relevance of the work. We hope that the materials will contribute to more UNICEF-supported, high-quality impact evaluations, and to more evidence-based decision-making by our partners.

Sudhanshu (Ashu) Handa is Chief of Social Policy & Economic Analysis, at UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti and a Principal Investigator on the Transfer Project. Nikola Balvin is Knowledge Management Specialist at the Office of Research – Innocenti and was responsible for coordinating the Impact Evaluation Series.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0122/Dicko

Protecting children in West and Central Africa

Hawa and her one-year-old son participated in a UNICEF-supported training session to provide psychosocial support to children from northern regions who have been displaced by fighting, Mali.

Hawa and her one-year-old son participated in a UNICEF-supported training session to provide psychosocial support to children from northern regions who have been displaced by fighting, Mali. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0122/Dicko

West and Central Africa (WCA) is a region faced with armed conflict, physical and sexual violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) – posing numerous threats to the protection and development of children. Amid the political instability and human rights violations, children bear the burden as they are among society’s most vulnerable segments.

Recently the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has put children in the region at even greater risk, exposing them not only to the illness itself but also to fear, stigma and grief resulting from the loss of caregivers and loved ones.

What is the role of data when it comes to protecting children? Hard data can provide a window into the fragile state of children in the region by bringing to light the urgency of their circumstances. Numbers provide insight into the specific ecosystem in which a child is born and raised, giving us a glimpse into the factors that impacts children’s growth and development.

By painting both a detailed and comprehensive picture of the situation of children in the region, data can drive change. How so? – by informing policy makers of areas where action is most urgently needed, so that resources can be allocated accordingly. Through the sharing of knowledge gathered through research, local and national leaders can be better equipped to act effectively.

Children in the child-to -child program in Kinshasa, DRC, where 5th and 6th grade students work with 5 year olds. © UNICEF/DRCA2010-00112/Connelly

Children in the child-to -child program in Kinshasa, DRC, where 5th and 6th grade students work with 5 year olds. © UNICEF/DRCA2010-00112/Connelly

So what do the numbers tell us? In West & Central Africa:

  • Almost 9 of 10 children experience violent discipline;
  • 1 in 10 girls have experienced acts of forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts;
  • 4 in 10 young women were married as children;
  • Less than 1 in 2 children were registered at birth;
  • The prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting is over 80% in some countries;
  • Over 50% of women 15-49 years old consider a husband justified in beating his wife;
  • An estimated 7,500 children across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have lost one or both parents to the Ebola Virus Disease

Take a look at the statistical snapshot of Child Protection in West and Central Africa

Goumbo (7) stands among other children outside her school in the village of Dan Gora, Niger.

Goumbo (7) stands among other children outside her school in the village of Dan Gora, Niger. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0269/Dicko

The challenge of addressing these issues is exacerbated by a lack of institutionalized help accessible to children in the region. The majority of children and families in WCA live far from formal child welfare and justice services provided by the government and NGOs, while social workers are limited in number and lack the resources to enable them to do their jobs.

As a result, children rely more heavily on extended families, neighbours and traditional chiefs to prevent and respond to violence and other rights abuses.
Effective approaches to protect children need be grounded in existing community-based practices and reflect cultural and social norms.

Both governments and civil society must be included and supported to understand and strengthen such practices. Armed with this knowledge, UNICEF child protection specialists are taking a data-driven approach to determining the direction our child protection work in the region.

The current metrics tell a story of a region where children are being left behind, hindering progress towards sustainable development. Improvement will require a global commitment to lift these lives. We need to do better for the children in the West and Central Africa to take their rights to protection from paper to reality.

Miranda Eleanor Armstrong is the Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF WCA Regional office; Andrew Brooks is the Chief of Child Protection, UNICEF WCA Regional office; and Anshana Arora is with the Data & Analytics Section, UNICEF HQ New York

(c) UNICEF/John McConnico

Violence against girls and boys in Europe and Central Asia

 (c) UNICEF/John McConnico

(c) UNICEF/John McConnico

I belong to a fortunate majority. That of women who have never experienced physical or sexual violence before the age of 15. It could have gone dramatically different. Out of three women in the region where I was born, at least one has experienced physical or sexual violence in her childhood.

The data I am referring to were published earlier this year by the European Union, covering its 28 member countries.

Data comparable to the above is unfortunately not available for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the region where I am working with UNICEF. However, among the available information, there is some promising news. UNICEF’s global report Hidden in Plain Sight indicates that, in countries with available data, the rate of adolescent girls aged 15-19 reporting any physical violence (non-fatal) since age 15 ranged from 4 per cent in Kazakhstan to 14 per cent in Moldova. The numbers are lower than in other regions of the world.

The glass is half empty, however, when the report looks at violent child discipline. At least 50 per cent of children aged 2–14 years have experienced violent discipline at home, including both psychological aggression and physical punishment, in all countries of the region for which data is available. Rates vary widely between 74 per cent (Moldova) and 54.9 per cent (Ukraine). A higher percentage of boys experience this type of discipline.

Child marriage, forced marriage and bride abductions are currently practiced in some countries and among certain population groups, and put girls at high risk of experiencing violence in the family. Rates of officially registered marriages involving girls aged 15-19 range between 27.2 per cent (Albania) and 0.9 per cent (Kazakhstan).

 (c) UNICEF/John McConnico

(c) UNICEF/John McConnico

So, how are countries in the region dealing with violence against girls and boys?

Important legislative progress has been achieved with the criminalisation of domestic violence and banning of corporal punishment – but greater efforts are still needed to translate laws into practical measures.

Recent evidence indicates that in many countries, the absence of clear legal definitions of what constitutes physical violence contributes to perceptions that this is a justified method of disciplining children. Regulations for coordinated prevention and response to violence and protection of victims between police, prosecutors, judges, and health, education and child protection professionals, are largely absent. Services to respond to cases, particularly in rural areas, are still insufficient.

Without precise data, under-reporting of violence against boys and girls is assumed to be large across the region – a trend observed in the European Union. Lack of trust in state institutions, feelings of shame, low awareness of rights and support services, are mentioned as reasons by victims. Justice systems are not always adapted to hearing victims of violence.

Attitudes and social norms also remain a barrier. While a large majority of primary caregivers do not believe that children should be physically punished, practices may differ. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 49.5 per cent of girls have experienced violent discipline at home, however only 13.8 per cent of caregivers believed that the child needs to be physically punished. Traditional gender norms and roles can reinforce male’s entitlements to aggressive behaviours. In Belarus, 12.4 per cent of women and 11.9 per cent of men linked domestic violence against women to stereotypical behaviours.

 (c) UNICEF/John McConnico

(c) UNICEF/John McConnico

25 November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women Say NO – UNiTE

UNICEF working to #ENDviolence

In the region, UNICEF is contributing to the global #ENDViolence initiative by being the voice for children and helping them break the silence surrounding violence. We collect data, and support monitoring capacity at national level. We also provide technical assistance to strengthen legislation and capacities in child protection systems to coordinate systemic responses to and prevention of violence against girls and boys, and help shape societal norms.

UNICEF strengthens the capacity of civil society partners to engage in independent monitoring of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in constructive policy dialogue with state decision-makers on how to improve identification, monitoring and responses to violence against children within the public social services.

UNICEF convenes governments, international partners, civil society and children to share experiences and get inspired through regional events and knowledge sharing platforms. The most recent of such events was hosted by the Republic of Belarus, focusing on Strengthening National Child Protection Systems to Protect Children from Neglect, Abuse, Exploitation and Violence, in Minsk, on 12-13 November 2014.

If 700 words were not enough to convince you to get involved and follow UNICEF’s work to #EndViolence against women, girls and boys in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, these children will do it in only one minute:

Check out more OneMinutesJr. videos here and here.

Elena Gaia is a Policy Analysis Specialist for Social and Economic Policy, based at the UNICEF Regional Office for CEE/CIS.

A community health worker sends a Rapid SMS message for an ambulance from the house of a pregnant woman in Rukoro neighbourhood in the city of Musanze in northern Rwanda.

Rapid SMS scheme is a joint initiative between UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO. Through this programme, the Rwandan government is giving out hundreds of cell phones in an attempt to save pregnant women and babies. Nearly 500 volunteer community health care workers in the rural district of Musanze have been given free phones so they can keep track of all the pregnant women in their villages.

The cell phones are used to register and monitor expecting mothers. If there are any questions, complications or updates, health workers simply send a text to their local clinic and receive a response within minutes. It is making a real difference in saving lives of children and pregnant women.

A data revolution for children

Data is central to our work for children – as many stories on this blog illustrate:

A community health worker sends a Rapid SMS message for an ambulance from the house of a pregnant woman in Rukoro neighbourhood in the city of Musanze in northern Rwanda. Rapid SMS scheme is a joint initiative between UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO. Through this programme, the Rwandan government is giving out hundreds of cell phones in an attempt to save pregnant women and babies. Nearly 500 volunteer community health care workers in the rural district of Musanze have been given free phones so they can keep track of all the pregnant women in their villages. The cell phones are used to register and monitor expecting mothers. If there are any questions, complications or updates, health workers simply send a text to their local clinic and receive a response within minutes. It is making a real difference in saving lives of children and pregnant women.

In Rukoro neighbourhood, Musanze, Rwanda, cell phones powered RapidSMS are being used to register and monitor expecting mothers. If there are any questions, complications or updates, health workers simply send a text to their local clinic and receive a response within minutes.
© UNICEF/RWAA2011-00482/Noorani

Learn more about UNICEF’s work on data for children and MICS.

Investments in data on children were bolstered a couple of decades ago by the World Summit for Children where world leaders committed to “establish appropriate mechanisms for the regular and timely collection, analysis and publication of data required to monitor relevant social indicators relating to the well-being of children”. And, later on, by the Millennium Development Goals.

Advancements since then have been significant. In 1990, 29 low- and middle-income countries had trend data on child malnutrition. Today 107 do, largely thanks to data collected via increasingly sophisticated household surveys.

More recently, the digital age ushered forth an era when the amount of data is rising exponentially; new data analytics allow us to answer different types of questions than was previously possible; and new technologies helps us do some of what we do, faster and cheaper.

Mobile data helped report 18 million births in Nigeria in 2011-12, and bring down the time to trace and reunify disaster-affected families in Uganda from weeks to hours. SMS surveys have helped reduce malaria medicine stock-outs by 80% in Uganda and young people are engaging in shaping decision making on HIV/AIDS in Zambia.

The recently coined “data revolution” refers to the potential of this ever-expanding and evolving data ecosystem to improve human well-being. These opportunities, however, will not automatically translate into something positive for all. To be sure, the data revolution also raises fundamental rights issues related, for instance, to having an identity and being accounted for, privacy, legitimate use, ownership, participation, and equity and non-discrimination.

These, in turn, question the suitability of our current data policies and governance structures.

People’s well-being should be at the heart of how these policies evolve. And particular attention should be given to children and youth because many risks affect them more specifically. Across the world, children and youth are growing up in a digital world, and data about them will be tracked for much of their lives. While data may help save the lives of many, others may not be aware that their interaction with technology is creating profiles that could impact their future.

A few days ago, I participated in a meeting of experts asked to prepare a report on the data revolution for the UN Secretary-General. During two days, specialists from the statistics, big data, open data, academia and the UN worlds brainstormed on the definition of the “data revolution” and its role to fill in persisting data gaps, to enhance accountability, to track progress towards sustainable development and to empower people.

While participants brought different perspectives to the table, all acknowledged the role of data as a key driver of sustainable development. Consultations held on the second day put the spotlight on the role of data for fostering openness and inclusion and unpacked the opportunities and challenges associated with big data.

These consultations continue online. You can join the conversation and help design a data revolution that works for the benefits of today’s children and of future generations. Submit your ideas here.

Katell Le Goulven is the Chief of Policy Planning at UNICEF Headquarters in New York.

A teacher in Ethiopia conducts her class outside due to a lack of classrooms. © UNICEF/ETHA_2014_00220/Ose

Day of the African Child: improving education with data

A teacher in Ethiopia conducts her class outside due to a lack of classrooms. © UNICEF/ETHA_2014_00220/Ose

A teacher in Ethiopia conducts her class outside due to a lack of classrooms.
© UNICEF/ETHA_2014_00220/Ose

Numbers, facts and figures can be daunting. Discuss too much data and people’s eyes are sure to glaze over. But let me assure you, data can make all the difference.

The Out-of-School Children Initiative is an example of how UNICEF and its partners use numbers, facts and figures to change children’s lives. On the Day of the African Child – celebrated today and dedicated this year to “a child-friendly, quality, free and compulsory education for all children in Africa” – let me throw out some data on children and education in Africa:

  • About 60 per cent of illiterate youths in sub-Saharan Africa are girls .
  • 18 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa have access to pre-primary education compared to 50 per cent worldwide;
  • Nearly 8 million lower secondary school-aged children are not enrolled in school in eastern and southern Africa;
  • Nearly 37 per cent of children in primary school in West and Central Africa are at risk of dropping out;
  • 34 per cent of lower secondary school-aged children in West and Central Africa do not attend school; and
  • Less than two thirds of primary school teachers in West and Central Africa are trained in the profession.

This is the kind of data that the Out-of-School Children Initiative works with every day.

The initiative is a partnership between UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics with support from the Global Partnership for Education. It uses diverse data sets including education data, health data, regional surveys and population surveys to identify and count the ‘invisible’ children who are not in school. It has collected and analysed data in over 30 countries to determine also where children are not in school and why. With this information in hand, local and national authorities and other partners can initiate targeted strategies for change.

Today, the Day of the African Child, the initiative is releasing reports on its work in Africa. Good data, of course. The collection of all this information is critical because one size does not fit all when it comes to children and education.

Certainly, global trends indicate which children are likely to be out of school. From Bolivia to Cambodia, poor girls from rural areas with uneducated mothers are likely to be excluded. War, conflict and natural disaster are also likely to reduce a child’s chance of getting an education. So is disability or being from an ethnic minority. But the gritty details of why children miss out on school vary greatly between countries, regions and localities.

These are the details in the data that the Out-of-School Children Initiative uncovers and uses to help local and national educational leaders make policy decisions.

Data at work
Site specific data have been able to influence policy directly , making a difference in children’s lives. In countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, data and analysis revealed that children forced to repeat grades were likely to drop out of school. In Brazil, an advocacy campaign focused on teaching literacy at the right age led to a 56 per cent drop in illiteracy rates for 8-year-olds.

Data has also been used to influence policy in Africa. In Ghana, data show that children in remote northern regions of the country are less likely to get an education than children in the south. As a result of the information, the Out-of-School Children Initiative is working with educational leaders to increase resources to the more disadvantaged regions.

In Mozambique, where making the transition to secondary education is difficult for girls, programmes have been introduced to encourage girls to continue their schooling. Scholarships have been provided and local schools upgraded to include upper secondary grades so girls can attend school in their villages.

Not just a number
Data collection and analysis is central to UNICEF’s work in every area. In education, UNICEF is working with cutting edge metrics, increasingly nuanced data, and technology that allows fast access to information that can inform policy decisions.

Of course, the point is not the data. It is knowing which children are falling behind, placing them at the front of the line, and providing assistance tailored to their needs. The point is providing children with the skills they need to lead decent lives. After all, they are children, not data.

Jo Bourne is the Chief of Education, UNICEF New York.

Read the full East and Southern Africa OOSCI Regional Study and West and Central Africa OOSCI Regional Study.