Major successes in Canada’s priority areas of gender equality, global health and focus on Africa, but one in four children denied their right to protection and health, most acutely in conflict or displacement settings.

At least 280 million children have a better chance to grow up healthy, educated and safe than at any time in the past two decades, a new report by Save the Children has found. The annual report evaluates 176 countries on children’s access to health care, education, nutrition and protection from harmful practices like child labor and child marriage.

Save the Children’s 2019 Global Childhood Report shows the world has made remarkable progress in protecting childhoods, thanks to strong political leadership, social investments at national level, and effective investment and support from countries like Canada.

In the year 2000, an estimated 970 million girls and boys were robbed of their childhoods due to ‘childhood enders’ – life-changing events like child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness, malnutrition and violent deaths. That number today has been reduced to 690 million – meaning that at least 280 million girls and boys are better off today than they would have been two decades ago. This progress includes:

  • 4 million fewer child deaths per year
  • 49 million fewer stunted children
  • 130 million more children in school
  • 94 million fewer child laborers
  • 11 million fewer girls forced into marriage or married early
  • 3 million fewer teen births per year
  • 12,000 fewer child homicides per year

Of the eight ‘childhood enders’ examined in the report, displacement due to conflict is the only one on the rise, with 30.5 million more forcibly displaced people now than there were in 2000, an 80 percent increase.

Bill Chambers, CEO of Save the Children Canada, said:

“Today girls and boys are healthier, wealthier and better educated than ever before. This progress is in part thanks to countries like Canada who have invested in areas such as global health, including for newborns, children under five, and adolescent girls. With Canada’s feminist international assistance policy, there has been a particular focus on girls’ education, on ending harmful practices such as child marriage, and addressing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescent girls.

“While progress has been remarkable, millions of children continue to be robbed of a childhood – specially in conflict and displacement. Canada can and must do more to give girls and boys in conflict the protection they need – including through greater investment and focus on the protection, survival and empowerment of girls and boys in conflict. 

“Progress made must not be taken for granted – notably in global health. While millions of lives have been saved, including through Canadian investments, many lives could be at risk if Canadian funding to global health is not renewed. Continued investment from Canada beyond 2020 has the potential to save lives and support the health, dignity and empowerment of girls and women in particular, using a life-cycle approach.”

The most dramatic progress was among some of the world’s poorest countries particularly in Africa, a key geographic area of focus for Canada’s international aid. Sierra Leone has made the biggest improvements since 2000, followed by Rwanda, Ethiopia and Niger. The findings also demonstrate the need for continued support in Africa, with countries such as the Central African Republic, Niger and Chad among those countries where childhoods are most threatened.

Save the Children’s report demonstrates the value of strong political will in making progress towards childhood enders such as child marriage, teen pregnancy, health and education. For those countries that made the most progress, the results showed that political choices can matter more than national wealth. Specifically:

  • Twenty-five years on from the Rwandan conflict, the country has improved on most of the ‘childhood enders’. The number of children dying before the age of 5 has decreased by 79 percent.  Many more children are in school and many fewer children are married before the age of 18. Rwanda has also cut child labor, adolescent births and child homicides in half since 2000.
  • Sierra Leone achieved a 99 percent reduction in the number of people forcibly displaced from home, with 1 in every 5 people displaced in 2000, compared to 1 in 700 today.
  • Ethiopia achieved a 41 percent decrease in teen births, 33 percent decrease in stunting, and a halving of child deaths, children out of school and child marriage.
  • In relative terms, Niger improved most out of any country on the list, with its score more than doubling over two decades and with the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday plummeting by 62 percent. Niger still has a long way to go, but its sustained improvements over the years point to a brighter future for many of Niger’s children.




– Today, nearly 31 million children have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Millions more – an estimated 420 million children in total – are living in conflict zones, more than double the number in 1995. Conflict-affected countries have the highest child mortality rates, a disproportionate number of the world’s stunted children and a rising share of out-of-school children globally. Rates of child marriage and child labor are also increasing in many of these contexts (e.g., Syria, Yemen). For more, see pages 35-39 in Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report. 


–  In the year 2000, an estimated 970 million children had been robbed of their childhoods due to “childhood enders” – life-changing events like child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness, malnutrition and violent death. That number today has been reduced to 690 million. One-fifth of these children have died. The rest – 545 million – are alive and missing out on childhood. This is 24 percent or 1 in 4 of the 2.3 billion children under the age of 18 worldwide. To reach this number, a series of reasonable assumptions were made based on evidence of overlap between groups of children who have experienced one or more childhood ender events. It includes:  152 million stunted children under age 5, an estimated 30 million children age 5 who are stunted, 262 million children aged 6-17 who are out of school and a subset of child laborers (86 million) and forcibly displaced children (16 million) who are not likely to be stunted or out of school. The reference year for this analysis is 2017. For details, see Methodology and Research Notes in Save the Children’s Global Childhood Report.


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