The neonatal period is the most vulnerable time for a child
The first 28 days of life – the neonatal period – is the most vulnerable time for a child’s survival. Children face the highest risk of dying in their first month of life at an average global rate of 18 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. Comparatively, the probability of dying after the first month but before reaching age 1 was 11 and after age 1 but before turning age 5 was 10. Globally, 2.5 million children died in the first month of life in 2018– approximately 7,000 neonatal deaths every day – most of which close to three quarters dying, with one third dying on the first day.
Harmful practices and intimate partner violence
650 million women and girls alive today were married before their 18th birthday
Child marriage, defined as a formal marriage or informal union before the age of 18, is a fundamental violation of human rights. It occurs among both boys and girls, though the prevalence is about five times higher among girls – reflecting societal values that hold girls in low esteem and deprive them of the agency to chart their own course in life. It often compromises a girl’s healthy transition to adulthood by resulting in early pregnancy, social isolation, and interruption of education, limited socio-economic opportunities and increased risk of domestic violence. Moreover, adolescent girls are often married to older men, creating a power dynamic that further disempowers girls and exposes them to greater risks of violence, sexually transmitted diseases and a lack of agency.
Around the world, the practice of child marriage has continued to decline. During the past decade, the proportion of women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from one in four to approximately one in five. And progress has been accelerating: of the 25 million child marriages prevented due to progress in the past ten years, 7 million were expected based on prior trends, while 18 million were due to an acceleration of progress. Nonetheless, many girls remain at risk, particularly girls from poor households and those living in rural areas. Ending the practice is critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 5.3 on the elimination of all harmful practices, but if current trends continue, between now and 2030 150 million more girls will marry before their 18th birthday.
Child marriage is most common in sub-Saharan Africa, where around 4 in 10 young women were married before age 18, followed by South Asia, where 3 in 10 were married before age 18. South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years, as a girl’s risk of marrying before her 18th birthday has dropped by more than a third, from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, in large part due to progress in India.
1 in 3 girls aged 15-19 have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation (FGM), a grave violation of women’s and girls’ rights and dignity, refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.The international community has codified its commitment to eliminating the practice by 2030 under Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
While the exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM remains unknown, at least 200 million girls and women have been cut in 30 countries with representative data on prevalence. The practice of FGM appears highly concentrated in a swath of countries from the Atlantic coast to the Horn of Africa, in areas of the Middle East such as Iraq and Yemen and in some countries in Asia such as Indonesia, with wide variations in prevalence. The practice is almost universal in Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, with levels around 90 per cent, while it affects only 1 per cent of girls and women in Cameroon and Uganda. However, evidence suggests that FGM exists worldwide as practitioners migrate to other countries. Attitudes towards the practice vary, though the majority of girls and women in countries with data think the practice should end.