The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has urged Uganda to invest in its poorest communities to reduce the deaths of children under the age of five as a way of achieving the world's sustainable development goals.
Unicef Uganda's communications officer Proscovia Nakibuuka said the world body's latest report on the state of children revealed that the east African country needed to reduce the mortality rate of children aged under five in poorer communities as a priority.
The mortality rate of children aged under five in Uganda's poor communities has to be reduced by 6.8 per per year for the country to realise the 2030 target of 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, Unicef said.
Nakibuuka said Unicef's global report on children released on Monday indicated that the under-five mortality rates in richer communities in Uganda had to be reduced by two percent a year compared to 4.8 percent in poor communities.
"Under-five mortality should continue to decline for all children," she said. "But in order to reach the child survival targets, mortality rates for children from the poorest households will have to fall much more rapidly than the rates for those from the wealthiest households."
Uganda's under-five mortality rate is 90 deaths per 1,000 live births while child poverty is pegged at 55% for under-fives.
Child poverty rates are much higher in northern Uganda with the lowest rates in central and eastern regions. Nakibuuka said global trends showed that 69 million children will die from mostly preventable causes by 2030. In Uganda, every day, 52 children die of pneumonia, 42 from malaria and 33 from diarrhoea.
The report, according to Nakibuuka revealed that 167 million children across the world will live in poverty, and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030, the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals – unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children.
To lift the world's poorest children out of poverty, governments, donors, businesses and international organisations have been to accelerate efforts to address the needs of the most disadvantaged children first so that no one is left behind.
Unicef's representative in Uganda, Aida Girma said: "in many cases, the constraints on reaching these children are not technical.
"They are a matter of political commitment and collective will. They are a matter of resources. If we all join forces, we can address the inequity and inequality that hundreds of thousands of children across Uganda currently experience."
While education plays a unique role in levelling the playing field for children, the number of those who do not attend school has increased since 2011. A significant proportion of those, who do go to school, do not get adequate learning.
About 124 million children worldwide do not go to primary and lower-secondary school, and almost two in five who finish primary school have not learnt how to read, write or do simple arithmetic. Addressing the challenges in education, especially quality education, requires interventions in early childhood.
According to the Unicef report, there is evidence that early childhood education can prepare children from the most disadvantaged homes for greater success when they enter primary school.
In Uganda, an integrated early childhood development policy was recently passed by Cabinet.
The policy identifies early childhood development as a critical component of building Uganda's future labour force and it is a flagship programme of Unicef's 2016-2020 country programme of cooperation with the government.
"By investing in the most disadvantaged and marginalized children right from the moment of their conception, we know we can have a major impact on the future of millions of Ugandan children's lives and, as a result, the achievement of Uganda's Vision 2040," Girma said.