© (SAIDU BAH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES) Sierra Leonean children attend the first day of the new school year on September 17, 2018, at the Freetown secondary shcool, after the government launched a programme of free primary and secondary education. (Photo by Saidu BAH / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAIDU BAH/AFP/Getty Images)
The quality of children's lives are a top priority for countries worldwide, with many nations looking at ensuring a better life for the younger generations. And plenty are succeeding, according to a new report from Save the Children.
At least 280 million children, or 1 in 8, are dramatically better off today than at any time in the past two decades, according to the Global Childhood Report, the international advocacy group's assessment of how well countries are providing for children. At the same time, about 1 in 4 children are still denied the right to a safe and healthy childhood, according to the report.
The report evaluates 176 countries' moves to protect and provide for their children in terms of health and education, and other weighs in additional factors such as child marriage and teen births. The report, released on Tuesday, found significant improvement in reducing malnutrition, teen births, child homicides, and the rate of children dying before the age of 5. Among the main findings that compare the quality of children's lives today to the year 2000:
- There are 4.4 million fewer child deaths per year, with the group reporting a 49% reduction in the death rate of children under 5 years of age.
- 49 million fewer children are reported to have inhibited physical growth.
- 115 million fewer children out of school, a 33% reduction.
- 94 million fewer child laborers, a drop of 40%.
- 11 million fewer married girls.
- 3 million fewer annual teen births, a decline of 22%.
- 12,000 fewer child homicides per year, a 17% reduction.
Singapore ranked first in terms of protecting and providing for children. The top 10 countries included eight Western European nations and South Korea. The United Statestied with China at No. 36 of the 176 nations evaluated, between Russia and Belarus.
The Central African Republic, Niger and Chad finished at the bottom of the list.
The group lauded Sierra Leone for making the most progress in the past two decades in improving the lives of children, followed by Rwanda, Ethiopia and Niger. The report has implications for policymakers in the group, said one of the group's leaders.
"We examined 18 years of data – the span of a childhood – and found that sustained investment in child-focused policies has greatly increased children's chances to grow up healthy, educated and safe," Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, said in a prepared statement.