The State of the World's Children 2001 December 31, 2001

Jessica and Matthew started second grade this year in Chicago, Illinois. Juan and Blanca have been learning in their fourth-grade classroom in Bogota, Colombia. Chifumu and Ifuna are in third grade in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And Jiang and Li have attended fifth grade in Beijing, China. What hopes do these different children share? What opportunities do some of the world's children have that others may not? What type of present — and what kind of future — faces the children of the world?

The United Nations Children's Fund, better known as UNICEF, reminds us that the "first three years of life offer an exceptional opportunity: Each time a child enters the world, there is the chance to break the relentless intergenerational cycles of poverty, violence, and deprivation. By protecting the rights of this child and thousands of others and carefully nurturing them through the earliest stages of development, a nation can give a new generation the keys to unlocking the vast potential that may have been denied to the parents. For a government that wants to improve the lot of its people, investing in the first years of life is the best money it can spend. But tragically, both for children and for nations, these are the years that receive the least attention."

UNICEF has released its annual report, The State of the World's Children 2002, which examines how the world's children and adults live in terms of education, health, nutrition, and more. This year's report comes more than a decade after the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and evaluates where there have been successes — like the near eradication of polio — and where there is still much work to be done — such as combating poverty, the proliferation of armed conflict and violence against women, and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Learn About the Problem
In order to read and evaluate a report like The State of the World's Children 2002 that presents data in a variety of forms, it is important that your students understand ratios and percents, and that they know how to read and evaluate different types of graphs. The following Destination Math tutorials can help prepare your students to evaluate the report:

For numerical data presented in tables, you may want your students to think about how the above visual tools for presenting data (e.g. bar graph, pie chart, etc.) might be used to more effectively present specific information from the report.

Say Yes for Children
UNICEF is particularly proud of its "Say Yes for Children" campaign, launched in March 2001. The campaign has mobilized communities around the world, encouraging discussions about the rights of the child and gathering pledges from "millions of people who believe that every child has the right to live in health, peace, and dignity."

The campaign's ten goals are: to leave no child out; to put children first; to care for every child; to fight HIV/AIDS; to stop harming and exploiting children; to listen to children; to educate every child; to protect children from war; to protect Earth for children; and to fight poverty by investing in children.

Think About the Problem
This section presents questions to help your students think about the data in the report. The questions are based on specific maps and tables from the 2001 State of the World's Children report and available on last year's State of the World's Children 2001 Web site. You can access the materials online or you can obtain a printable version by clicking the PDF links. (PDF requires Adobe® Acrobat® Reader) While the new 2002 State of the World's Children report does not have as accessible statistical data for students to use, you should still encourage them to review the latest report for the bar graphs and for the interesting quotes from children around the world.

Table 1: Basic Indicators ( PDF Version)

  • Look at the 1999 Under-5 Mortality Rate data (col. 3). Statistically, how many babies would die by the time they were 1 year old for every 5,000 babies born in Afghanistan? in Canada? in Columbia? (In the 2002 report, UNICEF reports a 14% reduction in Under-5 Mortality Rate between 1990 and 2000. That's 3 million fewer child deaths.)
  • The Under-5 Mortality Rank (col. 1) is another way of expressing the 1999 Under-5 Mortality Rate data (col. 3). Explain how these two data sets are related.
  • Find the five countries with the highest rank (lowest number) on the Under-5 Mortality Rank (col. 1). Look at the Life Expectancy at Birth data (col. 10) for those five countries. Can you determine a connection between those two indicators?

Table 4: Education ( PDF Version)

  • Look at the four columns for Adult Literacy Rate (col. 2-5). In what units are the numbers given? (Hint: Look at the bottom of the table.)
  • Look at the four columns for Primary School Enrollment Ratio (col. 8-11).
  • Define "gross" and "net."
  • Why is the value in the gross column always larger than the corresponding value in the net column?
  • In general terms, state a correlation between the Under 5 Mortality Rank (col. 1) and the % of Primary School Entrants Reaching Grade 5 (col. 14).

Table 7: Women ( PDF Version)

  • In the Life Expectancy column (col. 2), what is the significance of a value over 100? Why are most of the values greater than 100?
  • Compare the data in the Adult Literacy Rate (females as a % of males - col. 3) to the Women's Literacy data presented visually on the Women's Status = Children's Status map.
  • In what way are the two data sets different? (Hint: Why does one have percentages over 100% and the other does not?)
  • Summarize the link between women's literacy rates and infant mortality.
  • On the Women's Status = Children's Status map, select the Trends in Women's Literacy link under Related Graphics. In overall percent difference, which region has made the greatest progress in women's literacy since 1970?

More from the 2002 Report
149 million children in developing countries still suffer from malnutrition

More than 10 million children under five die each year from preventable causes.

More than half a billion children live on less than $1 a day.

More than 100 million children are out of school because of poverty, discrimination, or lack of resources.

Of the more than 100 million out-of-school youth, 60 million are girls.

Extending the Problem
The UNICEF site offers additional materials that you can use in your classroom:
  • Voices of Youth: This area encourages students to think about and react to children's rights issues. Includes The Teachers' Place for ideas on using Voices of Youth in your classroom.
  • Cartoons for Children's Rights: This UNICEF project aims to inform people about children's rights via cartoons. There are many cartoons available online for viewing. Have your class draw their own cartoons illustrating a basic right.
  • International Children's Day of Broadcasting: UNICEF's annual ICDB will be held again next December. Plan ahead and see if you can get a local television or radio station to agree to host your class for this project.
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child: The full text of the treaty is presented, together with additional support material, such as What You Can Do and Parents' Questions.
  • Teachers Talking about Learning: A UNICEF forum for teachers, providing lesson ideas, teaching strategies, and an opportunity to interact with other teachers.

Related Activities
Data Displays
An introduction to Tangible Math's Stats! tools for creating bar graphs, pie charts, etc.
Poverty Statistics
Use Tangible Math's Stats! tools to graphically display data from the Internet.
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