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Chloe Hall

Child Poverty and Advocacy

The aims of organisations like UNICEF when advocating for child poverty

Raising awareness of child poverty within specific countries requires reaching out to members of the political sphere, the general public, the media and any interested stakeholders such as NGOs, charities, rights campaigners, and cultural leaders. It is primarily about building momentum in a measured and authoritative manner.

How this can most effectively be achieved

Formulating an agenda and galvanising opinion for change relies on a series of research and data collection programmes. These shed light on the conditions in which children live. Evidence backed reasoning should prove more compelling than presenting political or ethical arguments.

The target audience

Initially the UN suggests that it is vital to present data and research findings to a specific audience, for instance, key stakeholders such as politicians, representatives from government organisations, charities, NGOs, as well as cultural and religious leaders. These should include the finance ministry, the national statistics office (NSO), and human rights campaigners.

How these stakeholders can best be identified

Identifying the most important stakeholders focuses a campaign. It should rely on a thorough understanding of their potential influence, authority and status. This needs to be set within a general appreciation of how change at a political and community level might be brought about.

The message that organisations like UNICEF are trying to convey

The overriding message needs to be insightful and pragmatic. Essentially it needs to convey the point that action to tackle child poverty is feasible and practical. It is achievable with the right political emphasis. Proposals need to be evidence-based and worthy of endorsement. It is equally vital to reassure stakeholders that future strategies would naturally be collaborative, supportive, data and evidence-led, and come with built in popularity in terms of their political appeal. Above all, advocacy needs to be formulated and put forward in a plausible and reasonable manner.

The best advocates for this type of campaign

Identifying the most appropriate advocates to approach potential stakeholders is central to the viability and ultimate success of any campaign. There will be statistical experts, possibly within the NSO, or from the world of academia, whose authority could add credence to any proposals, for instance in assessing and discussing the technical feasibility of potential programmes.

Representatives from the finance ministry, NGOs, and charities may draw upon their collective experiences to add weight to any proposals.

When and where it is best to make approaches

It is crucial to identify appropriate opportunities and points of access to key stakeholders. These could entail political meetings, board meetings, or a rally. Interest from the general public, or from the media, can quickly evolve into political pressure and bring with it a sense of expectation.

Evidence which NGOs and charities can present

A starting point can be close reference to the UN’s Strategic Development Goal (SDG) indicators. Representation relies on building mutually respectful working relationships with appropriate stakeholders, such as officials within the NSO and central government. By centralising child poverty within the SDGs, advocates are likely to ensure that proposals and appeals are presented within a respected political and ethical framework.

The UN’s 17 SDGs

  • End Poverty in all its forms.
  • End hunger by establishing food security, better nutrition, and sustainable farming practices.
  • Highlight and ringfence the importance of wellbeing and good health for everyone.
  • Promote the benefits of good-quality education for all children and young people, as well as adult education programmes.
  • Empower girls and women through programmes of gender equality.
  • Implement appropriate and sustainable water supplies and good sanitation for everyone.
  • Implement a sustainable, dependable and affordable electricity supply for everyone.
  • Promote the benefits of productive employment through inclusive economic growth.
  • Establish resilient infrastructure, appropriate industrial development and innovation.
  • Reduce inequality, both at a district level and on a global scale.
  • Promote the benefits of safe and sustainable cities, towns and communities for all people.
  • Ensure that agricultural production and consumption are sustainable and equitable.
  • Implement measures to tackle the pressing threat of climate change.
  • Implement sustainable measures to conserve and manage the world’s oceans and seas.
  • Conserve, restore and manage sustainably the world’s ecosystems, to ensure biodiversity and bio-preservation, together with appropriate forestry and land use.
  • Promote justice for all by enshrining inclusivity and accountability within judicial systems.
  • Ringfence and re-energise the Global Partnership between nations for sustainable development through the above SDGs.

What NGOs and charities need to do to make approaches as advocates for children living in poverty

Given the context afforded by the SDGs, NGOs and charities need indisputable, region specific advice and evidence presented by a local expert on child poverty. This data can be put forward to the NSO.

How the advocacy process begins

Strategic planning involves target setting and drawing up a list of potential outcomes. If plans and goals are enshrined within the framework of the SDGs they are likely to have more political impact. Meetings should be arranged with the stakeholders above to discuss goals. A formulative plan of action can be devised to address poverty tied in with SDG reporting. A meeting with representatives from the NSO would be important and it may be beneficial to set up countrywide workshops and seminars on a potential programme. Proposing a review scheme is also vital.

The best way to assess the impact and progress of child poverty advocacy

Monitoring, reviewing and modifying any programme and planning is an appropriate way to ensure accountability and give the whole procedure a sense of integrity. Proposals from meetings with stakeholders and officials need to be ratified and publicised, and ongoing concerns need to be robustly addressed.


If the above steps can be adapted and imaginatively implemented, the UN considers that advocacy for child poverty can become genuinely transformative. Advocacy can cut through bureaucracy to represent in an appropriate and effective manner those hundreds of millions of young people who continue to live in abject poverty across the world.

Issues arising when regional crises threaten childcare provision

A recent UNICEF report explores what happens to children and families when a humanitarian crisis strikes their community leaving them without access to good quality, affordable childcare services.

The number of children living in a humanitarian crisis

UNICEF estimates that around the globe approximately 59 million children are presently living in a humanitarian crisis. That is about the same as the entire population of England. Of these, a bewildering 31 million have been forced to move away from their homes.

Factors adding to these numbers

There are several ongoing conflicts across the world which have added significantly to these numbers, as has the global pandemic, and environmental events related to climate change.

How many children living in developing countries attend early years care?

About 70% of children, aged three – five, who live in a developing country, do not attend early years care. The number is naturally higher in countries where there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. And it is much higher in all contexts for infants under three years old.

This matters because childcare offers an array of positive opportunities to enhance and prompt brain development. Beyond socialising, it affords chances for children to explore their personalities, and refine skills which will help them in subsequent educational programmes. For example, they learn how to interact with others and gain confidence in fundamental interpersonal skills, develop their ability to concentrate on challenges, empathise with others, and recognise boundaries and self-control, while developing language skills. All that can be stimulated by carefully designed play-centred activities.

Interaction with other children and staff is central to enhancing personal development. Children also learn practical skills and gain a sense of self-esteem. Experiences that children have while attending childcare programmes can make the difference between their establishing robust or fragile foundations for the future.

The disruption caused by a regional crisis

The impact and aftermath of traumatic events such as conflict, a natural disaster, forced displacement, bereavement, or political upheaval within communities is almost always detrimental to children’s personal, social and educational development. UNICEF describes a neuro-biological toxic impact which is potentially harmful to young children’s cognitive development and brain function. It is argued that toxic stress can adversely affect mental wellbeing as well as physical health. This in turn can impact long term on the educational progress and personal development of young children. Regrettably, effects from traumatic events and disasters can even permeate through to the next generation.

If a young child’s experiences are shaped by traumatic events their self-confidence can be rendered fragile and their personal circumstances may even mean that formal education becomes a remote option. This may be because the education system is seriously disrupted or because there is a need for children to remain at home to support their mother as caregivers to elderly relatives or younger siblings. Moreover, events which undermine opportunities to enjoy childcare programmes deny children the chance to learn about themselves, restrict their chances to interact and empathise with others and, in short, hinder children’s personal development. This can even affect their outlook on, and approach to, being parents themselves.

The prohibitive cost of many programmes.

Tens of millions of mothers find it difficult to access a good quality, affordable childcare programme. As a result UNICEF confirms that women spend three times as long looking after young children than men do, and the disparity in such a role has become more marked during and since the pandemic, because so many childcare providers closed for good. This discrepancy explains the domestic existence which a majority of women around the world experience. Prior to Covid-19, 52% of women stayed at home as primary caregivers, whereas 25% of men did so.

The economic consequence

Acting as a non-earning caregiver means that women are more than twice as likely as men to be living in extreme poverty. As they are not wage earners, these women may well feel subservient to their husbands or partners, and be fully dependent on them.

The benefits of childcare for mothers and domestic caregivers

Childcare offers an opportunity for respite and frees up time to carry out other important tasks or access vital services. This may well include tasks which are simply not conducive to offering childcare at the same time. It also allows mothers and care givers some time to destress from the trauma of the crisis and assess how best to carry on. This is crucial for the mental wellbeing of domestic caregivers. It also means that they are likely to be better caregivers at other times.

Why provision for quality childcare in humanitarian crises is a priority for all

It isn’t just about the undoubted benefits to the children and parents concerned. UNICEF has published research which estimates that each dollar invested in childcare programmes yields a financial return in the range $6-$17 in economic benefits to society as a whole.

The importance of childcare in a crisis

In a time of emergency, a majority of mothers and domestic primary caregivers will likely have few resources, time and even a safe place to devote to offering young children some educational experience. If the crisis involves violence, the breakdown of law and order, or forced displacement, then childcare provision may be very limited. However, if NGOs and charities are able to promote some childcare provision, that will automatically establish a sense of routine for the children and their parents, and afford a safe environment for everyone involved.

The impact of neglect or abuse on children experiencing a crisis

There seems to be little doubt that children facing a humanitarian crisis are more at risk of abuse or neglect. These factors have a detrimental impact on children’s personal, mental, cognitive and physical development.

Good quality childcare provision helps to temper the effects of neglect and therefore reduces the risks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and below average growth rates.

Moreover, a programme of childcare can be used as a conduit for rolling out other services to children and their parents. These include basic medical services, hygienic sanitary facilities, support with nutritional aid alongside early education.

During a crisis women benefit more from childcare provision than men

In a humanitarian crisis there tends to be an increase in women who act as the head of their family. This may be because husbands, brothers and sons have been compelled to leave home in search of employment or been required to be away from home in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Therefore, it is often mothers who experience increased vulnerability just as they are forced to assume greater responsibility. They will certainly find it difficult to locate basic services let alone a childcare programme, which could free up valuable time, as well as holistically benefit young children. After all, domestic childcare is a full time role.

The role of girls

If a mother is able to find work, it would usually be an older daughter who assumes responsibility for looking after her younger siblings. This could well mean that she has to abandon her own school career which in turn will harm her future employment prospects.

A secondary school age education is the proven best way to empower children to lift themselves out of poverty. It also delays the prospect of marriage and starting a family. UNICEF argues that girls are likely to enjoy more personal benefits from attending secondary school than boys. Moreover, mothers who have themselves completed secondary school education are statistically more likely to send their daughters to secondary school than mothers who left school early.


Establishing childcare provision during a humanitarian crisis ultimately brings benefits to everyone in the community. In the short term it will add a sense of routine, free up time and space, as well as bring educational and personal benefits for the children. In the long term, however, it will contribute to lifting people out of poverty and that is the most important justification for establishing childcare programmes for displaced families facing a humanitarian crisis.

Understanding the aims and mission of battling child poverty

What organisations like Poverty Child aim to achieve

Alongside supporting grass roots initiatives and fundraising, organisations like Poverty Child aim to promote a clearer understanding and awareness of child poverty in its various manifestations around the world. If people can be empowered to appreciate the complex nature of child poverty they are more likely to be sympathetic and supportive of tackling it.

Drawing attention to the plight of children living in poverty

Firstly, by highlighting issues which we consider are important, secondly by addressing contemporary events in the UK and from around the world and, thirdly, by making a case for routine, inclusive research into child poverty the world over. This not only means conducting research programmes, it means presenting data and findings to politicians and other people who have influence over public policy and social programmes. We need to underscore that child poverty is an issue which needs to be prioritised. It is vital to make the argument that researching the circumstances of children who live in poverty will ultimately prove beneficial for all members of their society.


If young people who live in poverty can be empowered to improve their own circumstances the general population will enjoy a broader, better skilled and more motivated workforce which will collectively contribute to the economic efficiency and prosperity of the entire country. Tackling child poverty in the medium term is not so much about rolling out relief programmes, important though they are, but more a question of instilling aspiration in young people, and equipping them with vocational skills.

Who can facilitate that?

For the children, teachers and prominent members of their own communities can be highly influential in that role. Nurturing ambitions is of central importance. Prominent role models, especially from within local communities, are also influential.

However, when it comes to the broader political spectrum, the key stakeholders and potential influencers are researchers and organisations which compile and publish national statistics. Crucially, there are three key areas which should be reviewed and evaluated to promote a raised profile for child poverty: first, there needs to be a general awareness of key stakeholders; second, a clear understanding of those stakeholders’ potential reach, influence and ability to bring about change; and third, a clear understanding of the mechanics that are likely to bring about changes in the political sphere. This is likely to include access to sources of finance.

Examples of these stakeholders

Domestic research organisations; non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and international organisations with a vested interest, for example UNICEF; charities with an international presence which also work in the field, for example, Save the Children, the Red Cross; financial organisations which command a global horizon, like the World Bank; ethical campaigners; and smaller charities which contribute through resources, programmes and online discussion.

The message an organisation like Poverty Child conveys

All stakeholders aim to convey the simple message that by prioritising child poverty, not only is lasting, beneficial change desirable, it is also feasible, manageable and practical. Of course there are always going to be cultural, social and political sensibilities to address. Campaigns should be presented in inclusive, supportive and empowering ways. However, no matter what the specific circumstances facing an individual country, so long as there is a sincere desire to implement change the national government has the power, and can find the support, to make an effective difference.

A secondary compelling argument which small stakeholders can reiterate is that there is likely to be widespread support, and not only on the domestic front. Both strategically and financially NGOs and international organisations are ready to offer the benefits of their experience to relief programmes and child poverty campaigns. It is really a question of how best to harness and embed that potential support in a sensitive fashion for everyone’s benefit.

Generating and sustaining interest in child poverty

Interest in an issue like child poverty is nurtured through data compiled from research. Once a research programme is established it can be adapted and revised on a regular basis. The results can be presented through media outlets, and may well prove to be powerful in influencing public opinion. This in turn will help to shape the political agenda. Open discussion of processes, data and progress aims to raise interest.

Those best positioned to make the case for tackling child poverty

Researchers, respected experts, a government minister, or representatives from NGOs or international organisations, alongside smaller organisations with an active online presence.

Ways in which small organisations help to make the case

Small organisations can look for opportunities to lobby politicians and influencers. This may be through a simple practice like publishing a blog which discusses and summarises issues which are considered pertinent to the cause. An organisation or charity could also hold online seminars, workshops, or post video messages. However, to be sure that the most appropriate people hear the message, charities can appeal directly and personally to individual stakeholders who, for example, may attend high level meetings.

The way ahead to eradicate child poverty

Putting together a basic audit of resources is another potentially important policy driver. It is likely to reveal significant gaps, capacity issues, funding shortfalls, and a need for well-defined, robust strategies. These areas can be addressed by drawing upon the experience of appropriate NGOs and other key stakeholders.

An overarching development plan to tackle child poverty will formalise goals, engage with or appoint researchers, and anticipate interim progress and outcomes by stating realistic targets. There is no reason why realism cannot be infused with ambition when evaluating the potential scale of a development plan’s impact. A specialist team can co-ordinate preparatory work and the reporting process. Official collaboration with a national statistics body should help to nurture momentum and profile raise. Harnessing the online presence of other interested groups will also help to galvanise awareness.

Once work is underway, how can organisations and stakeholders know if their input is working?

Regular reviews, meetings and further research should be central to any development plan. Ongoing concerns need to be reviewed candidly, tactfully and purposefully. Priorities may need adjusting, whether on a temporary basis or for the medium term. Continued regular research should prove to be illuminating. Once there are signs of a momentum shift in awareness and opinion, it is likely that other interested parties from the political world and the media will choose to become associated with the programme. That is a tipping point, because it can lead to a sea change in attitude and things can move quickly. Consequently, it is important to have the groundwork, development proposals and initial research in place, in anticipation of that moment. Maintaining momentum is crucial in any campaign’s viability and ultimate success.

Food for Thought

It seems obvious that nutrition dictates the quality of children’s general wellbeing. Naturally, children who are left hungry because of personal circumstances are vulnerable to disease and malnutrition. Yet inevitably, they are also likely to be unable to concentrate well at school, and that is even if they are able to attend school in the first place. For across the globe many children instead undertake chores and caregiving roles for their family and siblings.

Surely the future economic prosperity of a country lies in its children’s hands? Yet what chance do children who are underfed have to make a genuine impact for good on their own society?

On the other hand, children who benefit from a decent, nutritious diet and have access to basic healthcare facilities, have every chance of thriving in later life. One immediate impact can be seen in education. For when at school well nourished children concentrate better in class. It is more likely that they will ultimately be productive and energetic members of their society. And they will help their communities to move beyond poverty.

It should come as no surprise that nutrition is enshrined in international covenants, for example, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is also fundamental to the same organisation’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

In Kenya, two hundred and sixty children from every thousand under the age of five are classed as ‘stunted’. This upsetting classification essentially means that those children are too short and look underdeveloped among their peer group. In turn, they will be physically and cognitively at a disadvantage to those around them as well as those of their age across the globe.

Economically speaking, poverty and poor diet continue to undermine poor children’s chances of a productive future.

The United Nations’ 2020 short rains assessment confirms that a number of Kenyan counties such as Mandera, Marsabit and Turkana have critical levels of acute malnutrition.

The global pandemic also hurt the poorest communities most, and children always seem to bear the brunt of such problems. While daily curfews and restrictions helped to counter the spread of the virus, they also exacerbated the conditions of abject poverty for countless already very poor people. For many families, basic food became a luxury, and many went hungry for extended periods. Schools were closed and with them went the chance for the most vulnerable pupils to enjoy a free, or subsidised, school meal. Healthcare facilities were restricted or suspended and many children faced a very bleak time.

Moreover, the impact of climate change in Kenya means long dry seasons and unreliable rainy seasons. This has led to greater food shortages as ninety eight percent of cereal and vegetable crops are rain dependent. Farmers have struggled to maintain their supplies and many herdsmen have lost their animals due to years of drought conditions.

UNICEF estimates that a sizeable majority of children go to school without the chance to have breakfast. There are 10.3 million children enrolled at primary school and a further 3.7 million at secondary school. Many of these walk long distances to attend their classes. They cannot possibly concentrate when they sit in lessons feeling hungry on a daily basis.

Yet there is an incontrovertible argument for investment in feeding children in countries like Kenya. A World Bank report exploring child malnutrition finds that for every thousand Kenyan shillings invested in childhood nutrition, over twenty two thousand shillings will be generated for the economy. What an extraordinary investment return that is.

Thankfully there is a political willingness to tackle child malnutrition in Kenya. The government’s Nutrition Action Plan (2018-22) promotes improved diet for mothers and children across the country. Moreover, UNICEF and the World Bank are collaborating with the government and several counties to address nutritional issues. The programme intends to reach over twenty three thousand vulnerable families over a five year period. Working with communities to implement programmes to tackle poor nutrition should lead to long term, sustainable solutions. 

Yet while the United Nations’ and World Bank work to address this issue, there are those unsung NGOs which already tackle child poverty and hunger as part and parcel of their missions. For instance, one UK based charity, The Langalanga Trust, presently delivers seventy two thousand school meals a year to pupils attending two primary schools in an impoverished district in rural Kenya. For many of the pupils at Ndogo and Mwega primary schools, this is life enhancing. It means that those children are receiving a reliable and nutritional daily meal in the form of a mug of uji, or Kenyan porridge, made from maize meal and beans. It is served free of charge. The scheme is project managed by one of the Trust’s scholarship alumni, Daniel Githinji. The evidence speaks volumes, the children are better motivated to attend school regularly and they pay closer attention in lessons.

Nationally speaking, ministers levy nominal fees towards school meals, and have invested in and trialled smart wrist bands for pupils to record meals taken. However, costs for these meals may backfire onto the poorest children. Will their families consistently be able to pay even the nominal charge of a few shillings? Will they buy into the notion that they are helping to support their children when in many instances they have no money?

President Ruto’s government is aiming to reach four million children with the government’s new campaign, an ambitious sounding roll out. Their problem remains finding the poorest four million children, and beyond them, those millions more who do not attend school because of their families’ abject poverty and everyday needs. Much remains to be done to ensure that Kenyan children of all backgrounds can enjoy and genuinely benefit from the basic human right of education. A simple, nutritious mug of uji is a promising start.

Constructing alliances to end child poverty

In country specific contexts, UNICEF has highlighted the importance of assembling and aligning political groups and charitable organisations to tackle child poverty. This blog examines how establishing such an alliance might be achieved and considers which stakeholders would prove most suitable to help make UNICEF’s mission to end global child poverty a reality.

Identifying the right stakeholders

A top priority for individual nations is to identify the most influential people and pressure groups which can publicise the importance of child poverty and ultimately contribute and collaborate in practical ways to address it. Starting at the top of the political spectrum, it is vital to galvanise central governments to raise the profile of the issue and firmly embed it on the political agenda. Ideally a government department that has previously specialised in tackling poverty would become a central player of any new alliance. In theory, this would provide an official lobbying voice within a central government’s decision-making bodies. Subsequent access afforded to a financial ministry, or appropriate minister of state, or civil servants could help to enshrine action against poverty on the political agenda.

The importance of data

It is easy to overlook the importance of accurate data in tackling child poverty. An independent office which researches and compiles statistics on a national scale is central to this. However, in some countries the compilation of useful, accurate data is a hugely challenging exercise. Political, financial, geographical and topographical factors can mean that data collection amounts to a general exercise in estimates. Without accurate figures central governments are unlikely to invest and commit more than token resources. Consequently, any alliance needs to be able to research and then present reliable data. It is a cornerstone in the fight against child poverty.

Other vital stakeholders

Non-political organisations are important independent bodies which can professionally contribute knowledge and expertise to help address child poverty. For example, the UNICEF backed Global Coalition to End Child Poverty is a collective group of dozens of organisations. They include religious bodies, international charities, child welfare bodies, trade unions and groups for social justice, a number of which are household names. Collectively these organisations can offer practical insights and policy advice, garnered from proven track records across the globe. Moreover, they collaborate by sharing resources, research, and data, as they formulate regional, national and international campaigns. These organisations can have a considerable impact on public opinion and generate support in a variety of ways. This can give a genuine sense of momentum and validity to any official campaign or policy addressing child poverty.

A critical dual role

UNICEF also highlights the importance of the dual way in which such groups address issues like child poverty. Naturally, civil society organisations propose, organise and direct fresh initiatives. For example, immediate help in the form of practical aid, medium term educational programmes, and long-term empowering of people to lift themselves out of poverty. However, their roles in advocacy and engaging in political debate both nationally and international are equally crucial in establishing and supporting national priorities. Essentially this action and support helps to highlight child poverty and keep it in the spotlight. It is by aligning themselves with the interests of central and local government, and with the diverse peoples of individual countries, that influential civil organisations can help to make breakthroughs in the battle against child poverty.

Research businesses and policy institutes

In depth and wide-ranging research which has been undertaken on a national scale can provide firm foundations for subsequent action. Research bodies specialise in thoroughly exploring societal issues which involve economic, cultural, military, technological or political factors and trends which have developed within a country. The fact that many organisations like these are autonomous is beneficial, although some do operate under the umbrella of central government or a political party. These businesses also specialise in advocacy and campaigning for change. They highlight the findings of their investigations among a range of communities as well as those policy makers who are considered the most influential political stakeholders. Again, if policy institutes can align the interests of policy makers with recommendations from their research, then it is far more likely that their role will be effective in galvanising change.

Enshrining an ethical, holistic overview

Local and national research can also ensure that crucial, naturally arising and socially related issues are kept under review. For example, a campaign’s sustainability, carbon footprint, effective environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics, general progress, strategic momentum, appeal and overall impact. Awareness of ESG has, for instance, revolutionised how investment decisions are taken. Monitoring and demonstrating how a campaign or organisation impacts on the society and communities in which it operates enshrines it with an important sense of ethical responsibility and authenticity. Political and business stakeholders are more inclined to embrace a new campaign if they can see that such issues are taken seriously by the core team.

A key role of engaging with children and their families

To ensure that issues surrounding child poverty at a local and national level are better understood, UNICEF advises that as a standard practice, young people and their families from a variety of cultural communities should be consulted throughout a campaign. To this end it is essential to reach out to people acknowledged to be living in poverty. Their input and responses will not only prove informative, but they should also offer genuine insight and evidence which can be used to inform strategic decision making.

The core team’s role

Initially constructing an experienced but small central team can ensure an appropriate focus on the challenge of addressing child poverty. This team needs to maintain an overarching role, give direction, promote advertising, empower action through research, and responsibly monitor the campaign’s progress, impact and direction.    

Potential allies for the core team

Natural allies include journalists, branches of the media, politicians, charities, religious groups, human rights organisations, pressure and research groups. These will all have opportunities to contribute to an evolving consensus, strategy and subsequent action as a campaign evolves. However, the core team will be aware of potential allies and these form an intriguingly unaligned group whose possible involvement may make a huge difference to a campaign’s outcome. These will include organisations and individuals who do not work directly with young people, or in the sphere of tackling poverty. For example, non-government organisations (NGOs) like a charity which specialises in health and wellbeing, or education, or sanitation, or crime prevention, or advocacy for minority rights. These organisations may well not work directly with children, or children who live in poverty, although the focus of their missions may inevitably overlap with child poverty. Nonetheless a core team should aim to embrace groups like these because their involvement can ultimately prove to be mutually beneficial.

International day for the eradication of child poverty

On 17th October 2023, people from across the globe participated in a variety of events to continue to highlight the ongoing need for co-ordinated action to bring about the eradication of child poverty. The United Nations, based in New York, staged a poignant conference and commemoration which presented an unequivocal message through artistic performances, music, and speeches. Many stakeholders participated, including people who live in poverty, children, state ambassadors, political and business leaders, activists, and charities. The message to the world was simple enough: it remains morally imperative to ‘stand in solidarity with people who are facing struggle and exclusion every day’. It is by constructing appropriate alliances which can responsibly and effectively tackle child poverty on a nation by nation basis that the aims of UNICEF and the Global Coalition can be made reality.

The Diversity of Child Poverty

Around the world poverty affects billions of children in various ways. UNICEF and the UN believe that poverty and child poverty need to be redefined to encompass the radically diverse nature of all their forms.

Contrasting experiences of child poverty

The United Nations’ Development Plan (UNDP) has for the first time included deprivation profiles within the 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). One surprising observation is that poverty profiles vary a good deal from region to region.

The benefit of generating deprivation profiles

Monitoring poverty helps to define more clearly how it affects people, and that insight helps to inform progress towards fulfilling the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to tackle and eradicate poverty by 2030.

How many people live in poverty?

The UNDP and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHDI) estimate that approximately 1.2 billion people from 111 countries live in multidimensional poverty (MPI 2022). About 50% of that figure are children.

Poverty manifests itself in contrasting ways

In a south Asian country such as Bangladesh a person who can be classified as living in abject poverty might be lacking decent nutrition, adequate sanitation, sound accommodation and fuel for heating and cooking. However, in a sub-Saharan country like Malawi, a multidimensionally poor person is also likely to be lacking local access to a reliable, safe water supply, and a reliable electricity supply.

This means that everyday life for these two people would feel quite different. For example, a lot of time and effort needs to be invested in collecting and carrying water for many people in sub-Saharan Africa, and without electricity life revolves around traditional ways of doing things like cooking, communicating, and approaching day to day routines. Children’s lives would therefore be quite contrasting.

The financial crisis continues to impact communities in developing countries

Essentially, governments are grappling with overburdened budgets, and cuts in spending will inevitably hit poor families in terms of medical facilities, educational programmes and social support. The UNDP has issued a gloomy forecast regarding 54 countries which are heavily overspent and indebted. Inevitably the populations of those 54 countries comprise more than half of the world’s poorest people. Overall, however, they make up only three percent of the global economy.

The UNDP is urging debt relief, restructuring and urgent action to reduce cripplingly high interest rate repayments on the loans which developing nations face. Otherwise, programmes to address pressing issues like the impact of climate change are likely to be abandoned and people, especially children, will suffer further hardship as services to their communities are pruned back.

How the UNDP calculates these data

The UNDP looks beyond household income and national GDP to arrive at these figures. It assesses the impact on people of basic services affecting health, wellbeing and education, alongside a living standards assessment. To draw its conclusions, the UNDP employs ten indicative descriptors such as access to adequate nutrition, decent sanitation, clean water and access to six consecutive years of school age education. Anyone who is judged to be deprived under the definitions of more than three of these descriptors is classified as multidimensionally poor.

How many people are included in the UNDP’s research?

The calculations include over six billion people from 111 countries. That amounts to about 92% of the total population of the developing world. Of the 6.1 billion, 19.1% are considered to be multidimensionally poor.

Many families experience undernourishment

The UNDP estimates that 682 million people live in a family with at least one undernourished person. The majority of these people are children.

Children in education

The UNDP calculates that 595 million people live in a family in which nobody has been able to undertake six consecutive years in education.

Many educational programmes are obliged to charge a fee for their services. The world’s poorest people cannot afford to send their children to a school where a fee is charged. Moreover, many children are also employed from a young age in a family business, for example, helping to run a smallholding, or helping with care duties for elderly relatives or younger siblings. Hence many children drop out of school.

Additional descriptors used to assess general living standards

The UNDP also employs these descriptors to help define peoples’ living standards:

  • Personal assets
  • Access to supplies of safe cooking fuel
  • Local access to clean water
  • Decent sanitation
  • Electricity supply
  • Safe housing or accommodation

The importance of cooking fuel

Approximately ten percent of the world’s population is exposed to risks associated with solid and unsafe cooking fuels. Wood and charcoal are still used for cooking by at least 850 million people. Given the huge rises in the cost of gas and electricity it is likely that more people will have switched to solid fuels.

Solid fuels are riskier than the alternatives

Indoor fumes and pollution from cooking can take a toll on people’s health, especially young children and the elderly, and for people who rely on solid fuels there is an increased fire risk.

Where do the world’s multidimensionally poor people live?

There are 579 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa whom the UNDP classifies as multidimensionally poor. That is over 50% of the global total. In southeast Asia there are a further 385 million (about a third of the global total). These two regions are home to approximately 83% of the world’s multidimensionally poor people. Over 50% are children.

The prominence of sub-Saharan Africa

This is down to dramatic changes in India’s demographic during the past fifteen years. Estimates suggest that 415 million people have lifted themselves out of multidimensional poverty in India since 2008. Hearteningly, the most marked changes were among what used to be the poorest cultural groups, including children, people belonging to lower castes, and people who live in rural parts of the country. This means that at present sub-Saharan Africa appears to be more prominent in terms of multidimensional poverty.

Where are the others?

Latin America and the Caribbean: 37 million

Arabian states: 51 million

Europe and central Asia: 1 million

East Asia and the Pacific rim: 109 million

Differences in multidimensional poverty levels within these regions and countries

Approximately 83% of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas. From the 111 nations assessed within the UNDP, 198 million live in cities whereas 964 million live in rural areas.

Within these numbers there is a particularly grim figure revealing that 593 million of the people classified as multidimensionally poor are children. On the global stage that means that about one in every seven adults and one in every three children are multidimensionally poor.

The global pandemic has reversed improvements

It is thought that the pandemic has reversed improvements in the battle against multidimensional poverty. This is because people who have limited or no access to decent nutrition and sanitation are more at risk from infectious diseases. And 470 million people are at present classified as being deprived of decent sanitation and nutrition.

The main recommendations from the UNDP’s research

Multidimensionally poor people tend to be deprived of several basic elements at once, for example, adequate nutrition, cooking fuel, decent sanitation and safe accommodation. This type of analysis suggests that relief programmes should be focussed on addressing poverty-related issues in an overarching, integrated manner, tackling these areas together.

By analysing factors like the UNDP’s multidimensional poverty descriptors, and how people in different age groups are especially affected – particularly children – policymakers can be offered useful insights when formulating action plans and specific intervention.


The UNDP report concludes: ‘Leaving no one behind means equality of opportunity and access. It means investing in women and girls, youth and the most vulnerable people. It involves mobilizing local action and commitment towards one common goal: a better future for all.’

Some of the hardest places for children to grow up

Crisis hit areas

There are several crisis hit areas across the globe where it is particularly challenging for children caught up in circumstances beyond their families’ immediate control. UNICEF lists the following countries as especially problematic: Afghanistan; Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; Haiti; Mozambique; Myanmar; Nigeria; Somalia; southern Madagascar; southern Sudan; Syria; Venezuela; and Yemen. That list is in addition to the migrant crisis in Europe.

This blog looks briefly at conditions in just four of these places, Haiti, Madagascar, Nigeria and Myanmar.


Ironically, for many years Haiti has been a popular stopover for cruise liners with its idyllic landscapes, Caribbean climate and cultural appeal.

Conditions in Haiti today

However, there are several deep set natural and socio-economic factors which are compounding problems facing the people and particularly children. The country is still only starting to recover from the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which devastated the region in August 2021. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands injured, among them many children. Countless buildings were badly damaged including schools, churches and hotels. Although a similar quake struck eleven years earlier, in August 2010, Haiti was still recovering from the economic shock caused by that earlier natural disaster. Recent geological events have only compounded problems with infrastructure, power supplies, and everyday services. This has all impacted severely on day-to-day life.

The present political situation

UNICEF also highlights persistent civil unrest in Haiti. There is gang-related insecurity, ongoing corruption, political upheavals and forced community displacement. Moreover, tourism which has provided much needed revenue for local population has once more been severely curtailed by the latest natural disaster, having already been severely impacted by the global pandemic. For example, cruise ships were just beginning to return in 2019. Moreover, many people were already living in poverty. UNICEF estimates that 57% of the population is abjectly poor.

The impact on children

This combination of challenging conditions is naturally proving disruptive for everyone living in Haiti. For children it means interruptions to educational programmes, disruption to medical services, generally low living standards and uncertainty about the future.

Humanitarian funding for Haiti

UNICEF estimates that in 2021 it committed $24 million to Haiti in humanitarian relief programmes. That amounted to a shortfall of $98 million, or 81%, of UNICEF’s projected $122 million humanitarian appeal target. While the US and Europe, together with many other countries, donate generously to UNICEF every year, such shortfalls in funding for emergency relief programmes are further impinging on opportunities for millions of children to flourish and enjoy the benefits of basic services and a reasonable standard of living.


The island is the celebrated setting for a Dreamworks blockbuster animation of the same name. Four cartoon animals from Central Park Zoo, in New York City, are stranded in the jungle on the island.

But the reality of life on Madagascar today is harsh. It is estimated that 69% of the population live below the absolute poverty line of $2.15 per day. There are several socio-economic issues facing the general population. There are widespread health problems, a lack of medical facilities, and long-term malnutrition remains endemic. UNICEF ranks Madagascar as the fourth most impoverished country. Half a million children under the age of five are experiencing malnutrition, while almost fifty percent of children are undersized for their age. Moreover, there remains a serious issue with access to a clean water supply. According to the charity WaterAid, 12 million people do not have access to safe water. That’s from a total population of about 27 million.

The impact of climate change

Madagascar is suffering from an ongoing famine which has been attributed directly to climate change. The rainy season has been much drier than usual over the past three years and prolonged drought has left 1.5 million people without a reliable food supply, because of the devastating impact on local agriculture. Children find themselves innocently caught up in the throes of climate change.


Nigeria is a rapidly developing country with growing economic prosperity, and abundant natural resources. It has the largest economy in Africa and is ranked 31st of all 195 countries in terms of GDP. However, that is only one side of the story. This is a country with an astonishing north south divide. UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 13 million people affected by conflict in the north of the country. Over 8 million of these are children. Of this overall total, nearly 2.5 million people have been displaced from their home communities, and a further million live in areas which are difficult to access or service with power and water supplies. UNICEF confirms that there are high levels of food insecurity. Therefore, malnutrition is affecting huge numbers of people, especially children. Meanwhile the political situation is very uncertain with lengthy and ongoing conflicts affecting the northeast and northwest of the country. Unfortunately, these unstable conditions are being exacerbated by localised outbreaks of disease like malaria, yellow fever and cholera.


This is the largest country in southeast Asia, with a population similar to England’s, approximately 54 million. However, the country is continuing to experience humanitarian and political crises. UNICEF suggests that conflict, human rights violations, social unrest and violence are not only rife, but out of control. Together with the aftereffects of the global pandemic, and economic shocks of climate-related natural disasters, Myanmar has witnessed poverty levels rise while public services have collapsed. This means that over a quarter of the population, including five million children, is desperately in need of humanitarian aid. Child survival rates are falling and more and more people are finding it impossible to escape from poverty.

Political instability

The army seized political control in 2021 replacing the civilian government. Regrettably Myanmar is considered to be corrupt, has high rates of crime, especially murder, and is a significant producer of drugs such as opium and methamphetamines.

Historical humanitarian concerns about child soldiers, slavery and human trafficking

In 2012, child soldiers were found to have been drafted into the army. The Independent reported that families were resorting to selling sons to serve in the army for the sum of $40 and a can of petrol, or a sack of rice. After international political pressure, the armed services released a total of 42 child soldiers later that year, and negotiations were held for the release of more.Child labour, trafficking and slavery also occur in Myanmar. In 2017 the government officially acknowledged that it was investigating 185 cases of human trafficking.

It is hard to imagine being desperate enough to sell off a child for a few ten-dollar bills, with some rice or fuel thrown in to incentivise the deal. Moreover, traffickers exploit women and girls who have no incomes, or very low informal incomes, with promises of better working conditions overseas. Tragically most of these women end up as sex workers, or are forced into early marriage, or become pregnant.

What is being done to help people, especially children, in Haiti, Madagascar, Nigeria and Myanmar?

UNICEF has undertaken to make its humanitarian relief and support work as efficient and effective as possible. In the last two years, its Core Commitments for Children (CCCs) have been thoroughly revised and incorporated into central policies that inform and steer its humanitarian programmes in life threatening circumstances across the world. The CCCs are nurturing stronger accountability for personnel and managers, guiding planning, research, monitoring, and empowering deployment of human resources. UNICEF is establishing robust links between its development and humanitarian work in every region in which it operates. The CCCs are ensuring that UNICEF becomes a nimbler, more reactionary and reliable humanitarian path maker and collaborative partner.

Moreover, UNICEF is developing new emergency procedures; improving its risk analysis and overall readiness for future crises; improving accountability through detailed feedback procedures among target peoples; enshrining the benefits of local partnerships; and strengthening collaborative partnerships with other charities and organisations to ensure collective impact where it is needed.It is through rigorous, evidence-led and farsighted responses like these that children can continue to be reached, helped and ultimately lifted out of crises brought on by poverty across the world.



Why children’s views matter

Why children’s views matter when assessing child poverty

When it comes to defining and researching child poverty on a national or global basis, it might strike some people as counter intuitive to involve children in the preparatory groundwork at all. Yet by consulting with children and young people in a meaningful and engaging way, they are likely to feel empowered by the process and become engaged with it. Moreover, they may sense that their rights, as well as their views, are being respected. What better way is there to represent the experiences and opinions of children concerning their own circumstances. In estimating differing levels of poverty and differing needs it may in fact be of paramount importance to take into consideration the views of children.

An example of a child-centred approach to analysing child poverty

A study from 2015 attempted to examine the priorities of South African children who were living in poverty by asking them to formulate and then subsequently arrange an itemised list of commodities, services and everyday essentials onto a scale between what they considered an absolute necessity through to an out and out luxury.

Those children undertaking the surveys were first asked to compile a list of essentials for their day to day lives. The top 25 choices were selected for the comparative survey. The results are shown below in table form and contrast with sample responses from adults who were asked to perform the same exercise.

(Barnes, H. and Wright, G. (2015) Defining child poverty in South Africa using the socially perceived necessities approach. Available at:

Contrasts and similarities

Of the 25 items on the list, only six coincide in the priority ranking from both the adults’ and children’s surveys: three meals a day (1st), toiletries(1st), storybooks(5th), a computer (7th), a Play Station (10th) and an MP3 player (10th). Perhaps it is unsurprising to see the four items which coincide in first and tenth positions.

More interesting are the items with contrasting rankings, for example, adults placed new clothes 4th, whereas children voted them 8th. Does this say something about self-esteem from these differing vantages? Conversely a mobile phone was rated 4th by the children, and 8th by the adults. That result may reference universal issues of utility, practicality, cost, and a sincere desire to be connected to the world beyond home. From a young person’s viewpoint, perhaps having personal access to the internet and social media is likely to seem more important than having their own bed or room because of the broadening and aspirational appeal of a phone. A desk and a chair are ranked 6th by the adults and 10th by the children, which implies that children are happy to work anywhere that is available, convenient and reasonably appropriate.

Educational toys (2nd and 6th), and toys (3rd and 7th) are also ranked in marked contrast by each group. Once again, the educational significance and (in the latter case) the social and cultural value of these commodities should not be underestimated. These five examples speak loudly about differences in perception that children may have when it comes to assessing and evaluating what matters to them most in their everyday lives. It might also say something about their ages. There is, however, the vital matter of the children’s first-hand experience, which chimes with the positioning of school transport (1st and 3rd). For a child trying to get to school that selection affirmingly amounts to a top priority, of equal necessity to having access to a doctor. It also sheds light on the child’s perception of the importance of school, especially given the equal ranking of school equipment.

Therefore, it is little surprise, given the above, that children voted the school trip 2nd, while adults considered that much less of a necessity (5th). Another marked contrast is sports equipment (like toys, also 3rd and 7th), which, importantly, may be linked as much to aspirational motivations, as to notions about the beneficial nature of exercise.

What these results show us

Results, such as this table highlights, confirm that there can be a significant difference in the values which children and adults place on everyday essentials, fundamental services and commodities. It would be intriguing and informative to run this sort of exercise on a cross-cultural, global scale.

Implications for future research and programmes targeting child poverty

When it comes to tackling child poverty, taking children’s views into account is not only morally worthwhile, but it is also potentially ground breaking. This is because it is likely to prove genuinely insightful when evaluating their needs and values, and therefore help to shape the form and goals of future assistance. If decisions about issues like these are simply taken by adults then it is highly probable that the outcome will transpire be partly at odds with what really matters to the children in question. And in turn, those children are likely to wonder how and why such a programme was designed in the first place, and reflect on how beneficial it is to them. Developing an effective campaign to address child poverty is likely to benefit from an inclusive approach which embraces the opinions and values of the people for whom it is essentially intended. In other words, alongside evidence backed views of politicians, researchers and managers at non-government organisations (NGOs), relief agencies and charities, it is equally important to take into consideration children’s opinions about their own needs and values.

Obstacles NGOs may experience in tackling child poverty

Obstacles to tackling child poverty

Across the world organisations attempting to research and roll out programmes to tackle child poverty have encountered political, economic, ethical and cultural arguments put forward to resist addressing children’s needs. This blog asks why child poverty is sometimes not promoted into the political spotlight. Here are eight reasons.

1: emotional and cultural associations

From time to time in their roles of campaigning against child poverty and implementing relief programmes, non-government organisations (NGOs) and charities like Save the Children and Oxfam have experienced political and cultural obstacles to designing policies and rolling out initiatives which are intended to tackle child poverty. A central difficulty is the emotive nature of the issue. In short, child poverty is a very sensitive matter.

A need for new approaches

At first glance this sort of sensitivity may simply seem to be uncooperative, but it is vital that its significance is appreciated and addressed for genuine progress to be made. Regrettably, it may seem all too easy for NGOs or international organisations, albeit unintentionally, to appear to antagonise political and cultural sensitivities. If there is even a hint that an organisation appears to be aiming to meddle in a political agenda, or impose what could be judged as external values in a uniform fashion across different cultures then there is little surprise that insular resentment, solidarity or even denial may be consequential. Empowering people on a national and local level to formulate campaigns to end child poverty appears to be a good way to proceed. Achieving this, however, is a hugely complex goal.

UNICEF and The Global Coalition to End Child Poverty suggest that a nuanced shift of emphasis is one possible solution. Instead of addressing child poverty per se, perhaps addressing child wellbeing may help to ease understandable concerns. A UNICEF-endorsed report concludes that ‘measures and conclusions may be similar, but it may be a more constructive way to open discussion’.

2: the overarching context

If there appears to be little political motivation to discuss, research or formulate strategies to tackle children’s circumstances specifically, then addressing in general terms the wellbeing of citizens across various communities which collectively comprise a nation may open up opportunities for some consideration of children. It is from an overarching context which focuses on people’s wellbeing that child poverty may naturally emerge as an important area of concern and so be drawn into mainstream discussions. This should open up the means to introduce new stakeholders in forming a new alliance with policy makers, in turn enabling constructive consultation, funding and planning.

3: structural issues and conflicting research programmes

From time to time organisations encounter a contrasting problem, namely, a policy designed to counter child poverty which has been enthusiastically supported in the formative stages, but lacks fully fledged research or a strong core team to coordinate its effective implementation. Perhaps different research groups have been approached to compile data but have employed different statistical methods. This could mean that any data collated would not necessarily be comparable or compatible, undermining the credibility of the initiative. Constructing multidimensional estimates of child poverty is certainly a more challenging prospect than relying on a simple financial summary based on the arbitrary poverty line of $2.15 per person per day. Appointing a single agency to oversee this vital research could mitigate potential problems. Meanwhile, assembling a purposeful, experienced and connected core team should give momentum and focus to developing, coordinating and rolling out future programmes.

4: Solutions to poverty and child poverty are very similar

If policy makers and government ministers believe that measures to tackle child poverty and poverty in general are very similar, they are likely to consider that solutions to these issues are also very similar. This means that they may see no obvious benefit in subdividing poverty as an economic, social and cultural circumstance. In that scenario, it is quite feasible that there would be little motivation to put in place initiatives to address child poverty in isolation.

However, UNICEF demonstrates that potential solutions to tackling poverty and child poverty can be surprisingly different. For example, child-centred approaches are likely to involve a questionnaire-backed consideration and analysis of the provision, support for and enrolment within education programmes and future vocational training. Ongoing and endline surveys are also vital to update progress through the production of revised data. Naturally, analysing and tackling systemic poverty will not wholly focus on child specific issues.

5: In crisis areas measuring child poverty is counterproductive

A plausible-sounding case can be made that if political and social conditions facing individual communities are fragile, or in crisis, then there is little point in attempting to collect data specific to child poverty. For example, in areas experiencing an ongoing humanitarian crisis, it is simply not a practical priority to research child poverty. Yet maintaining support for a rolling research programme which collates data on child poverty can help to clarify specific and developing circumstances and inform agencies in coordinating strategic responses to both child poverty and any ongoing emergency.

6: Prioritising child poverty only benefits children

UNICEF highlights the fact that addressing child poverty helps to tackle poverty in general. In fact an innovative way to focus on tackling poverty within society is to centralise the significance of child poverty. By addressing the circumstances, needs and rights of children, all members of their communities are likely to feel the benefit of specific policy changes. Building alliances with organisations and stakeholders whose work tackles poverty is vital and forming a coordinated agenda around child poverty helps to benefit everyone. For example, enrolling as many children as possible within education programmes will naturally lead to a better educated workforce, potentially fostering personal aspirations and opening up improved prospects.

7: Concentrating on child poverty is not the best use of resources

An argument can be made that because there are many issues facing children and young people living within culturally disparate communities in a country, child poverty is not necessarily the top priority. Perhaps healthcare or rights should be considered the pre-eminent concerns. Yet by highlighting child poverty and focussing resources on that, it is likely that support will naturally emerge for those other areas which are obviously crucial for young people’s wellbeing. An informed, holistic overview will be a likely outcome of addressing child poverty. Researching and tackling its causes can also shed light on everyone’s living standards, rights and needs.

8: The poorest households have to bear costs of research

Any research programme, policy formulation and the subsequent implementation of a new initiative need to be financed. Interested observers appreciate that such policies are not necessarily paid for by comparatively wealthy tax payers, or international donors, charities, or NGOs. If there is any suggestion that people from low socio-economic backgrounds may be obliged to fund poverty research programmes through personal taxes or even out-of-pocket expenditure, it would be vital to investigate the financing structure of policies and programmes to formulate more appropriate ways to finance direct political intervention.

Compounding the problem of poverty within communities, even with sincerely altruistic goals, is unlikely to lead to welcome, or acceptable, solutions. If the target community feels in any way resentful then such action would also be counterproductive. Before any research begins, it needs to be appropriately funded in an equitably acceptable manner, preferably through associated stakeholders. The fiscal burden cannot be borne by the poorest in the community.


Arguments and obstacles put forward against tackling child poverty arise from genuine economic, cultural, and ethical concerns. Addressing these is very important to ensure that campaigns against child poverty can be conducted effectively and in a coordinated manner. An appropriately respected core team can build constructive working relationships with researchers and key stakeholders to put in place suitable finance and a rigorous, innovative rolling programme, informed and publicised by ongoing data collection.

All discussions and planning need to be undertaken in culturally sensitive, constructive and supportive ways. Moreover, where possible the benefits of detailed analysis, research, and measurement of child poverty need to be set into a holistic context and be clearly appreciated by policy makers and other interested parties. Emerging aims and policies to address the complexities of child poverty should therefore be based on well informed agreement.

Child poverty and drought

Water usage on the international stage

The UN estimates that 72% of all water used is in agriculture. A further 16% is used by local communities for example, through domestic supplies. The final 12% is used in industry.

Water scarcity and child poverty

Of the basic necessities which are taken into account by organisations like the World Bank to help reach a multi-dimensional definition of child poverty, a safe water supply is as fundamental as it gets.

Many people are affected by drought every year

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that approximately 55 million people around the world are affected by drought every year. Some of the most vulnerable work in agriculture and its associated trades. Droughts are obviously hazardous to livestock and crops everywhere. Depending on their severity, water shortages lead to people’s livelihoods being jeopardised or wiped out. The wellbeing of families and communities can be compromised if crops fail, or animals die from thirst. At its worst, drought can lead to whole communities migrating in search of safer, more reliable water supplies.

Many people are affected by water scarcity

Water scarcity impacts on about 40% of the global population, or 3.5 billion people.

A definition of water stress

Water stress is defined by assessing when a region or community draws on more than a quarter of its renewable freshwater supply. This is an initial red line intended to trigger a roll out of appropriate measures, official alerts and messages.

About 800 children under the age of five die every day because they are suffering from diarrhoea which has arisen from being forced to drink dirty water. Approximately 2.3 billion people do not have access to basic facilities such as a toilet.

Many people face the threat of forced migration because of drought

The WHO estimates that during the next seven years, as many as 700 million people, or one twelfth of the world’s population, will remain at risk of forced migration due to the threat of drought. Across the globe, approximately 2.2 billion people, or about a quarter of the global population, do not have access to a reliable and safe water supply.

Water scarcity is becoming more commonplace

The UN considers that the effects of climate change are making water sources less reliable. Natural water storage – that is, water which is retained in the soil, or in ice and snow – is decreasing. This inevitably leads to mounting pressure points on resources, meaning interruptions to supplies. Consequently, in dry seasons widespread disruption across communities, agriculture and industry becomes inevitable.

Those likely to be hardest hit by water scarcity

People who live in poverty, in low income countries, and on the fringes of their societies are most commonly affected by even minor fluctuations in water supplies. When it comes to a crisis brought on by a natural disaster or political unrest, women and children are, as a rule, the hardest hit group. Responsibility for fulfilling family requirements tends to fall on women and children. For water scarcity translates into a practical, pressing need to collect water. This is a laborious task, even if water can be sourced locally, and can use up much energy and time on a daily basis. For children it may mean that they have no choice but to miss school.

Helping to establish safe water supplies

Organisations like Oxfam introduced rolling programmes to supply water storage tanks as long ago as 1976. These are obviously transformative because they can be used as a central depot and distribution centre.

Another key piece of equipment in the fight to establish safe water supplies is the testing kit. This needs to be lightweight, and easy to store, transport and use. Kits should be able to confirm that water is uncontaminated and has appropriate levels of chlorine.

The jerry can is still an important resource in the battle to provide emergency supplies of safe water. Sizes vary but an optimum measure is 20 litres, enough to permit people to carry them while providing enough water for domestic use for a few days.

Other essential equipment includes pipe work, taps, standpipes, tanks and toilets.

Further medium term help

While pumping water to many communities is a medium-term goal, installing irrigation systems for use in agriculture is also vitally important. This will not only preserve crops and livestock, it will also help to secure livelihoods.

Moreover, advice and information need to be made available to as many people as possible. One route to achieving this lies in reaching out to communities through schools.

The importance of data in controlling water scarcity

In many countries there is no established, official monitoring system in place to facilitate a water management programme. This is important to help strategic considerations and provide accurate updates. Monitoring schemes can help to balance community, agricultural and industrial needs.

What is the best way ahead?

The UN argues for a collaborative approach. There is a need to view water as a scarce resource. There is an increasing onus on the global community to introduce Integrated Water Resources Management Schemes (IWRMS). These should empower policy makers with a framework to align the requirements of various water users in light of supply and usage patterns and projected demands. They provide up to date insight to help assess levels of water reserves. Essentially, data help to control water scarcity.   

How can IWRMS control water scarcity?

Data monitoring arising from IWRMS is able to shed light on issues such as losses and leaks from water distribution infrastructure. Moreover, data monitoring enables better allocation of water resources and targeted deployment of repair and relief measures. A desalination programme may become a viable strategy which could be endorsed and focussed by findings from IWRMS. Appropriate safe recycling of grey water is a further issue which can be explored through the implementation of IWRMS. Such systems give greater control of water resources through more accurate assessments.

Other measures to address water stress

Awareness, communication and appropriate technology all contribute to the production of more accurate data relating to levels of water reserves and associated resources. This in turn can be augmented through educational programmes and media alerts, explaining the benefits of water-saving and the use of green practices, particularly within industrial and agricultural contexts. Any methods which help people to appreciate the need to promote sustainable use, conserve water and reduce waste will benefit everyone.

Sustainable use of groundwater is vital to ensure that communities in vulnerable areas can adapt to the impact of climate change and better manage the needs and demands of an expanding population.

Water relief

WaterAid describes the visibly lifechanging sense of relief when a community is supplied with a safe, reliable freshwater supply. Clean water, decent sanitary and toilet facilities together with beneficial hygiene practices are fundamental to ending the relentless cycle of child poverty across the globe. When an NGO like WaterAid oversees the installation of a well, or a standpipe, children benefit immeasurably. And not just by being released from water collection duties which support the family. Aiming to guarantee a fresh water supply, rationalise usage, pool expertise, and implement conservation measures will contribute hugely in the ongoing fight to end child poverty.