Lighting the way to better policy: measuring child poverty in the SDGs

Child-poverty_indicators_coverBy Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer

To achieve the vision for the Sustainable Development Goals set out in the UN Secretary General’s synthesis of the post-2015 discussions,  child poverty needs to be at the core of the new framework. Childhood is the critical period for the development of human faculties. Not only does poverty experienced during childhood have demonstrable damaging life-long consequences, but its impact on children’s health and learning represent a huge waste of human potential in rapidly changing societies. (more…)

Preventing child mortality and addressing ‘the lottery of birth’

The_Lottery_of_Birth_coverby Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The status report on the Convention published by the UN in September noted an incredibly important fact –that under-5 mortality has nearly halved, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012. That is 17,000 fewer children dying every day. The pace in reducing early child deaths has quickened – from a 1.2% per annum in 1990–95 to 3.9% in 2005–12.  Of course this is a tremendous success story, but to put it into perspective, the global average of 48 per 1000 compares to 5 per 1000 in the UK and 3 in Sweden, and the MDG goal of a two-thirds reduction will not be met by the 2015 target year.

Last week Save the Children issued a report, The Lottery of Birth, which shines a spotlight on a key part of this story which is that even within national averages, the progress has not been equitable – mortality rates are typically falling least among the poorest and most marginalised children and mortality inequalities within countries are growing. The implication of this is that to make further reductions requires policies to reach the poorest families, where the problem is greatest. (more…)

Reflecting on 2014: 14 things we’ve learned

Paul_web commentBy Paul Dornan, Young Lives Senior Policy Officer

As the year draws to an end, it’s time for a re-run the next instalment of our ‘who’d miss’ series … 12 things we learned in 2012  and the ‘ever popular and long-awaited’ 13 things we learned in 2013. So here are 14 things from 2014… The need for brevity means I’ve had to simplify loads of information into a few lines – so don’t take my word for it all, click the links to find out more.

#1 Children have high hopes and expectations to study for longer to get a good job and future. At the age of 12 years between three-quarters of children in Ethiopia and nine in ten in Peru wanted to go on to vocational training or university after finishing school. Such high hopes often bump up against sharp realities later on, especially for the most marginalised children. But it makes little sense to interpret the reasons for children leaving school early as a lack of understanding of the importance of a good education. (more…)

Reaping the demographic dividend: youth as a second critical window

Paul_web commentBy Paul Dornan, Young Lives Senior Policy Officer

The UNFPA State of the World’s Population has just been published, with the title The Power of the 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the future. So what does the report show (beyond the importance of summarising the argument in the title!?)…. The 1.8 billion refers to the number of people aged 10 to 24 years (one in four of the world’s population), of whom nine in ten are growing up in poorer countries.

The report’s main thrust is to identify a potential demographic dividend that is a large young workforce, but one which will reduce as countries experience the demographic transition of falling fertility rates. The report draws on the experience of East Asian countries, highlighting the importance of investing in human capital (we can probably call that education …)  at the same time as countries experienced declining fertility rates. (more…)

Beyond the Girl Summit: creating a legacy of health, education and empowerment

alula photo_YouTube-interview photo_Dec2013

By Alula Pankurst, Ethiopia Country Director, Young Lives

As someone who spends most of my time involved in the nitty-gritty of research, from fieldwork through data analysis to publishing papers and producing policy briefs for consultation with government and other stakeholders, coming to London to attend the Girl Summit was an extraordinary experience. The energy and excitement was palpable and the general enthusiasm especially from vocal young women was infectious. (more…)

What do we know about how children use their time?

Children's time-use in AP_croppedHere’s an interesting question: how do children typically use the 24 hours in their day? It’s a rather basic question – with some important implications.

(1) Where children spend their time tell us something about the space for interventions to reach them. There’s not much point in targeting nutrition programmes through schools if the poorest children are all in the fields.

(2) Time-use information might tell us something about what is likely to matter for children’s well-being since where they spend their time will also determine the friends they make, the activities they take part in, and the risks they may be exposed to. (more…)

‘Life-course‘ perspectives on child poverty

Paul_web commentThe World Health Organization has long been interested in the life-course, recognising that much of the burden of non-communicable disease results from the cumulative impact of factors experienced earlier in life. Reducing the burden of ill-health requires engaging with earlier risk factors. In line with more academic ways of looking at life-course studies, the WHO approach has also recognised the wider social context in which people lives their lives, emphasising the social determinants of health.

Policy debates have increasingly engaged with the potential of life-course analysis to improve children’s outcomes, and while most of the attention (although not really spending) focuses on the early years as a key foundational stage, it highlights the importance of those critical moments in children’s lives which must not be missed. Increasingly attention is being drawn to changes and transitions happening during adolescence. What then does a life-course approach offer to concerns about reducing the impact of child poverty? (more…)

What’s the Problem? Youth and Vulnerability in a Global Perspective

Abby Hardgrove_May2014_low-resIn a guest blog for the UNDP Human Development Office, Abby Hardgrove argues that more often than not, youth come to our attention as a result of their association with crisis—be it a crisis of unemployment, of involvement in violence, or susceptibility to early parenthood or sexually transmitted infections and disease.

“I would like to talk about this,” she says. “I do not wish to challenge the idea that young people are vulnerable to risks and even producing risks to themselves and their local contexts. However, I would like to take a second look at the way that youth, risk, and vulnerability are often balled up together in a way that sees young people as the problem (or the solution)—rather than participants in societies and in a global community that are fraught with many problems.” More…



Giving up too early on malnourished children? Catch-up growth and Midday Meals in India

Abhijeet2_low-resWriting for Ideas for India this week, Young Lives research officer Abhijeet Singh summarises the evidence on the benefits of the Midday Meal Scheme in India. Findings from several studies suggest there may be some hope for correcting early nutritional deprivations which have happened during the critical 1000-day window from conception to a child’s second birthday. Prevention and remediation of malnutrition during the early years is still likely to be the most effective strategy, both in terms of costs and impact, but for children who remain malnourished beyond this critical window, some remediation might still be achievable. (more…)

WDR 2015 on ‘Mind and Culture’: an opportunity to understand decisions in context

By Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer

Paul_web commentThe World Bank’s annual World Development Report for 2015 has the working title of ‘mind and culture’ (helpfully, the Bank pre-releases the focal areas of the forthcoming report). A scan of the twitter-sphere suggests that it hasn’t been picked up widely yet, but where it has, the reaction seems positive. Robert Chambers at IDS emphasises the different way of thinking about development; and others welcome this recognition of the importance of context and culture.

Now the Bank is on to something important, but my instinctive reaction is to be cautious. The outline states: “poverty is best understood not only as a state of deprivation but as an environment that affects decision-making”. Remove one or two words and poverty becomes a question of behaviour and bad choices, not constrained decision-making and injustice. So while the topic is an important one, there is a fine line to walk. But there are useful contributions I hope the WDR may be able to make. (more…)