South Sudanese refugee Idro, 28, had spent his childhood and adolescent years living in a Ugandan refugee settlement, after his own parents fled conflict. After living for six years in newly independent South Sudan he found himself once again uprooted after the civil war erupted. They were forced to leave everything behind and seek refuge in northern Uganda. Idro works a Village Health Team worker. He offers guidance to families on how to prevent malnutrition. They don’t know when they will return home but he is determined to make the settlement as homely as possible for his children. Uncief/Sudan 2017/Ose

Over half a billion ‘uncounted’ children live in countries unable to measure SDG progress

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UNICEF: Over half a billion ‘uncounted’ children live in countries unable to measure SDG progress

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 Latest data on development progress for children shows over half a billion more live in countries where the SDGs are quickly falling out of reach.  

7 MARCH 2018 – Early assessment of progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals confirms an alarming lack of data in 64 countries, as well as insufficient progress toward the SDGs for another 37 countries where the data can be tracked.

The UNICEF report, Progress for Children in the SDG Era, is the first thematic report assessing performance toward achieving the SDG global targets that concern children and young people. The report warns that 520 million children live in countries which completely lack data on at least two-thirds of child-related SDG indicators, or lack sufficient data to assess their progress – rendering those children effectively “uncounted.”

Where sufficient data is available, the scale of the challenge posed by the SDG targets remains daunting. The report warns that 650 million children live in countries where at least two-thirds of the SDGs are out of reach without accelerated progress. In fact, in those countries, even more children could face bad outcomes in life by 2030 than now.

“More than half the world’s children live in countries where we either can’t track their SDG progress, or where we can and they are woefully off-track,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director for the Division of Data, Research and Policy. “The world must renew its commitment to attaining the SDGs, starting with renewing its commitment to measuring them.”

The report tracks progress on five dimensions of children’s rights: health, learning, protection from violence and exploitation, a safe environment and equal opportunity. The report quantifies how far short of the global goals the world is currently expected to fall, measured in human costs.

Projections show that between now and 2030:

  • 10 million additional children would die of preventable causes before their fifth birthday;
  • 31 million children would be left stunted due to lack of adequate nutrition;
  • 22 million children would miss out on pre-primary education;
  • 150 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday;
  • 670 million people, many of them children, will still be without basic drinking water.

“Two years ago, the world agreed on an ambitious agenda to give every child the best chance in life, with cutting-edge data analysis to guide the way,” said Chandy. “And yet, what our comprehensive report on SDG progress for children reveals plainly is an abject lack of data. Most countries do not have the information even to assess whether they are on track or not. Children around the world are counting on us – and we can’t even count all of them.”

The report calls for renewed efforts to address the global data-deficiency, while recognizing that strong national data institutions and capacity take time and investment to develop. The report identifies three principles to underpin this work:

  • Building strong measurement into service delivery systems, whether in health or education, social services or border control;
  • Systematic and coordinated efforts to ensure all countries have minimum data coverage for children, irrespective of their resources and capabilities;
  • Establishing stronger shared norms on data concerning children, including common approaches to measuring emerging threats facing children, capturing missing child populations, and sharing data to enable vulnerable children to be more effectively identified, while protecting children’s privacy.

While each government is ultimately accountable to generate the data that will guide and measure achievement of the goals, the international community has an obligation to partner with them to make sure the SDG targets are met.


Notes to Editors

Of the 44 indicators linked to nine SDGs specific to children, 39 were assessed for data availability and progress. On average, 75-80 percent of indicators in countries either have insufficient data or show insufficient progress.

Multimedia can be downloaded here

For more information, please contact:

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030,
Morwenna Darby, 020 7375 6030,

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit

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