• 02.04.14

The State Of The World’s Kids, In Numbers

The last 20 years have brought vast improvements for kids worldwide, but there is still a long way to go.

The State Of The World’s Kids, In Numbers
[Image: Akwa Ibom, Nigeria via Lorimer Images / Shutterstock]

It’s getting better for the world’s kids, most of them anyway. UNICEF’s flagship report shows how the worldwide situation for children has improved in the last 20 years. There are fewer early deaths, less disease, and better access to sanitation, clean water, education, and food.


For example, in 1990, only about half of all kids went to primary school. Now more than 80% do. There’s been a 37% drop in the number of kids suffering from stunted growth. Immunization programs are saving lives (even if they’re not always popular here in the U.S.). Measles killed 86,000 in 2012, down from 482,000 in 2000.

The improvements are uneven, though. For example, there are still just as many deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa as there were in 1970, though the death rate has fallen. In 2012, more than two million kids under five died in South Asia. Life chances remain slim for millions, even as Latin America and the Middle East have made major gains. There’s huge inequality in basic service. For example, the poorest children are three times less likely to be born with the help of a trained attendant.

Also many of the world’s 2.2 billion kids are forced to work, to enter into early marriages, and are beaten for their trouble. Up to 15% of kids work for a living, getting in the way of their education and development. More than 10% of girls are married before their 15th birthday.

UNICEF says accurate data is one key to making kids’ lives better. “Being counted makes children visible, and this act of recognition makes it possible to address their needs and advance their rights,” the report says. UNICEF conducted more than 650,000 interviews in compiling its numbers, and is making use of new technology to reach more people all the time.

You can build your own charts and graphs with the tool here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.