The U.N. children's agency applauded the tremendous progress since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted nearly 25 years ago on Thursday but said more than 300 million children are still made to work and over 6 million die from preventable causes.
On the plus side, UNICEF said some 90 million children who would have died before their fifth birthday if child mortality rates stayed at their 1990 level are alive today. It credited progress in delivering immunizations, health care, water and sanitation.
UNICEF also reported a 37 per cent drop in youngsters with stunted growth since 1990 due to improved nutrition, and an increase in primary school enrolment, even in the world's poorest countries where only 53 per cent of children gained school admission in 1990 compared to 81 per cent in 2011.
On the minus side, UNICEF's report on The State of the World's Children 2014 said some 6.6 million children under the age of five died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes in violation of their fundamental right to survive. It said "a disproportionate number" were from areas in cities or the countryside that are cut off from services because of poverty and geography.
UNICEF also said 15 per cent of the world's 2.2 billion children are at work, which "compromises their right to protection from economic exploitation and infringes on their right to learn and play," and 11 per cent of girls are married before the age of 15, "jeopardizing their rights to health, education and protection."
The report, entitled "Every Child Counts," stressed the importance of credible data so governments can intervene to reach the most vulnerable children and improve their lives.
UNICEF said the latest data shows that improvements in economic development are uneven.
In Niger, for example, all urban households but only 39 per cent of rural households have access to safe drinking water while in Chad, for every 100 boys who enter secondary school only 44 girls do.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed in 1989, states that all children have a right to life and to survive and develop to their full potential, that their best interests must be a primary consideration in all decisions affecting them, and that they have a right to express their views and be taken seriously on matters affecting them.