New UNICEF Study Shifts Focus toward Most Disadvantaged

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The UN Children’s Fund released two studies on Tuesday that suggest millions more lives can be saved if aid is administered on an equity-based approach that would focus on those who are most disadvantaged.

The new publications, Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals and Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity, were meant to reassess progress being made toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The findings of the two studies, released in conjunction with a report by Save the Children, address a range of disparities that still exist throughout developing countries – even as the 2015 MDG deadline approaches.

According to Progress for Children, those who are the poorest remain the most disadvantaged in developing countries – and the furthest from reaching the MDGS. Children in the poorest households are less likely to attend primary school. Adolescents from the poorest households are more likely to begin childbearing than those in richer families. The under-five mortality rate is the highest among the poor.

The traditional aid approach has been to focus on those who can be most easily helped, allowing resources to reach a greater number of individuals. With the results of these studies, however, resources can be redistributed on an as-needed basis so that those who require the greatest amount of aid will receive it rather than those who may need less assistance. The study suggests that this new approach could lower the child and maternal mortality rates, decrease the undernutrition levels and result in the expansion of primary health and nutrition programs.

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