Investing in children is the fundamental solution to end child poverty and inequality and set the foundation for sustainable and inclusive economic growth, UNICEF has said.
This was during the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference at the 10th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) that concluded in Kampala over the weekend.
“In the past three years, the number of people living in poverty in rural areas of China has decreased drastically from 55 million to 16 million. China’s contribution to global poverty-reduction efforts is significant,” said Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative to China.
“While we are supporting China in their ‘last mile’ to eradicate extreme poverty and to build the human capital it needs for the decades ahead, we are also facilitating the sharing of knowledge and practices on ending child poverty between China and other developing countries through South-South cooperation.”
The 10th FOCAC Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference, co-hosted by China’s State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development (LGOP) and the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, has the theme of “Partnership for Transformation in Africa”.
The thematic session – National Pathways to Child Poverty Reduction – is co-organized by UNICEF and the International Poverty Reduction in China (IPRCC).
The meeting was attended by the LGOP and senior government officials from African countries and China, international experts and representatives from international organizations and development agencies.
Delegates expressed the urgent need to invest in social policies and infrastructures which combat child poverty in Africa, where around three out of every four children are affected by multi-dimensional poverty.
Between today and 2050, almost 1.6 billion babies will be born in Africa. By 2058, Africa will be home to one billion children and more than 40 per cent of the world’s children.
Nowhere are children more central to a continent’s future than in Africa. Africa’s burgeoning population presents an unprecedented opportunity and several challenges.
The opportunity lies in the potential for a so-called demographic dividend of sustained rapid economic growth in the coming decades.
“Investment in children is Africa’s best hope to set the right pre-conditions for this potentially massive and transformative demographic dividend,” said Mohamed M. Fall, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“Protection from violence, conflict, abuse and exploitation are imperative if children are to reach their full potential. This Forum provides an opportunity to share practical experiences and insights on tackling child poverty.”
Along with its ambitious plan to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020, China will be on-track to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 ten years ahead of schedule.
The investment from the Government of China contributes to the achievement of SDG targets on health – reducing maternal mortality, under-five mortality and neonatal mortality and on education – achieving nine years of compulsory education, with universal access and gender parity.
“Reducing child poverty, and promoting their healthy growth and all-round development, is an important way not only to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, but also to implement the long-term poverty alleviation strategy, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and promote social development and social equity,” said Zhang Guangping, Deputy Director-General from the International Poverty Reduction Center in China.
Delegates at the session discussed the importance of understanding, measuring and monitoring both income and the multi-dimensional deprivation faced by children.
By doing so, it will help to identify cost-effective solutions – that focus on the child and to ensure that governments and development partners are on the right track, delivering on national priorities and the SDGs. Delegates also expressed the critical needs to increase the investment in children.
According to UNICEF’s recent study, the continent of Africa needs to hire an additional 4.2 million health workers, to meet minimum WHO standards for frontline skilled health personnel by 2030. And it needs to recruit 4.5 million more primary school teachers by 2030.
“Prioritizing funding to sectors that matter most for children and their future development is fundamental,” said UNICEF’s Mohamed M. Fall.
“We have a joint responsibility to understand the structural transformation taking place on the continent, and to acknowledge that a partnership which can transform Africa should be built on sincerity and an understanding of the economic and demographic changes that are sweeping the continent. Such partnerships must, therefore, reflect on and position children at the centre.”