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Focusing On Most Disadvantaged Children More Cost-Effective Than Current Strategies, UNICEF Reports Say

UNICEF on Tuesday said that by “comparing the effectiveness of different strategies for aid delivery, targeting the poorest and neediest children could save more lives per $1 million spent than the current path,” Reuters reports (Charbonneau, 9/7).

“The agency found that an equity-based approach, focusing on the needs of the most disadvantaged children, can be a cost-effective strategy to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the U.N. News Centre writes. UNICEF’s research and findings were presented in two publications: Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals (.pdf) and Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity (.pdf) (9/7).

Researchers found that targeting the poorest first could prevent “60 percent more deaths” for every “$1 million spent on anti-poverty measures,” Foreign Policy’s blog, “Passport” reports. “The reason for this is simple: if you’re destitute, and you receive a bit of aid, say a cash transfer of $100 a month, that will boost your income by a massively larger percentage than if you are middle-income. Put in another context, if you are a woman with no access to healthcare during childbirth, a trained midwife will mean much more to you than it would to a woman with basic care already,” according to the blog (Dickinson, 9/7).

The data show that “providing the most impoverished children with essential services can greatly accelerate progress towards the [MDGs], particularly MDG 4 on reducing under-five mortality by two thirds between 1990 and 2015, and reduce disparities within nations,” U.N. News Centre writes. “Since most child deaths occur in the most deprived communities, further reductions in child mortality depend on investments in those communities, according to the study. … Also, children from the poorest 20 percent of households in the developing world are more than twice as likely to die before reaching their fifth birthdays as children from the richest 20 percent of households,” the news service writes (9/7).

“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, according to a press release from UNICEF. “An equity-focused strategy will yield not only a moral victory – right in principle – but an even more exciting one: right in practice” (9/7).

The data is “expected to fundamentally alter the approach UNICEF is taking toward the Millennium Development Goals that relate to its work,” Inter Press Service notes. Lake said that focusing on the poorest communities “proved considerably more cost-effective and sustainable than the path we’re on.” He continued, “It doesn’t just suggest change; it compels it” (Berger, 9/7).

According to Lake, “This study in no way casts doubt on, or calls for a reversal of, what we and our partners have accomplished over the last 10 years. It only helps us find the best way to build on what we’ve achieved already,” U.N. News Center adds (9/7).

Obama To Address MDG Summit, U.N. General Assembly, AP Reports 

Later this month in New York, President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Summit and the subsequent U.N. General Assembly ministerial meeting, the Associated Press reports.

“The meeting on the Millennium Development Goals will be held from Sept. 20-22. The list of speakers circulated Tuesday includes Obama addressing the high-level session in the afternoon of Sept. 22,” and again on Sept. 23, according to the AP.

“The anti-poverty goals, adopted by world leaders at a summit in 2000, including cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring universal primary education, halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and cutting child and maternal mortality – all by 2015,” the news service writes (9/7).

In related news, the international charity WaterAid released a report (.pdf) Wednesday documenting the slow progress toward the MDG “to halve the proportion of people living without basic sanitation,” Reuters AlertNet (Dmitracova, 9/8).

The report, issued ahead of the U.N. MDG Summit, shows that “[a]t current rates of progress, the 2015 target to halve the proportion of people living without sanitation will not be met globally until 2049; and in Sub-Saharan Africa not until the 23rd century, some 200 years late,” according to a WaterAid press release.

“Drawing on authoritative medical, academic and grassroots sources, the report argues that without sanitation in place the MDGs will not be reached across large parts of the developing world and that the health, education and prosperity of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people will be severely jeopardized,” the release adds (9/8).

The report examines the health challenges populations without access to clean water and sanitation face, including high rates of diarrheal disease and undernutrition, Reuters AlertNet adds. The article includes quotes from individuals included in the WaterAid report, including Zambian doctor Claudia Caracciolo and Steve Luby, a medical expert in Bangladesh (9/8).

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