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Getting to Zero: ending child poverty in our generation

We could be the generation that ends extreme poverty.  Debates about poverty often focus on raising people above an income poverty line such as US$1.25 (78p) a day but we all know that poverty is much more than this. It is hunger and poor health, violence and discrimination, and a lack of education, employment and healthcare. Could we be the generation to end all this?

Dramatic progress has already been achieved across a range of dimensions of poverty.

But 6.6 million children still die every year. Children lack basic health, water and sanitation and don’t go to school. Hundreds of millions of people continue to live below the extreme poverty line. The job begun by the Millennium Development Goals – the current set of global development goals – is only half-done.

We could be the generation that ends extreme poverty

The question is: how to finish that job? Save the Children and others have been considering this, as part of a global process to develop a set of goals to replace the MDGs when they expire in 2015. In a report released today, Getting to Zero, Save the Children examines the prospects for ending different dimensions of poverty. Specifically, we consider the extent to which tackling inequality and governance could enable us to end preventable child deaths faster. We also look at ways to achieve universal access to water and sanitation, and to ensure that children don’t drop out of school.

The findings are clear: with business as usual, we will not eliminate these dimensions of poverty by 2030.  However, reducing income inequality and improving governance accelerates rates of change considerably. If we do this it will bring us within a whisper of our goals.

An end to preventable child deaths

Tackling income inequality and governance could mean saving an additional 1.8 million lives a year by 2030 and ending preventable child deaths.  It could mean boosting the percentage of children who stay in primary school to the last grade from 94% to 98% and ensure a massive 920 million more people have basic sanitation.

And by taking extra steps to provide assistance to the poorest and most marginalised people – such as investing in proven solutions for service delivery – we could get to zero in all these areas.

A fantastic opportunity

These findings are remarkable. They remind us how far we’ve come since the MDGs were agreed in 2002. World leaders are gathering in New York this week to discuss exactly this. They must grasp the opportunity at hand and work toward a new framework with zero goals and concrete targets to spur the action that  will be needed to achieve them. If we tackle inequality, improve governance and strengthen development partnerships, all countries and socioeconomic groups really can get to zero.

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