Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A problem with stats to be addressed at UNICEF

Statistics that tell you that poverty dropped by a percentage can tell an incomplete story. Even though a country can improve on average, there could still be some remote villages, or forgotten neighborhoods that didn't see any improvement. New executive director of UNICEF, William Anthony Kirsopp Lake, hopes to straighten out these inequalities during his tenure.

From the Huffington Post, reporter Evelyn Leopold obtained this interview with Lake.

"We are working very hard now on reviewing our programs throughout the organization to see if we can refocus with a greater priority on getting into the toughest neighborhoods in the cities and the farthest communities to try to reduce those disparities," Lake said in an interview, his first since taking office in May.

In measuring child mortality, Lake said as an example of "equity" issues, you get different answers depending on the analysis. He pulled out maps of Brazil, a middle-income country, which he said could be maps for any country in Africa or in south Asia. If you look at the country's average mortality for children under 5 years old, Brazil has a low rate -- fewer than 17 per 1,000 live births. If the map is broken down by pockets of deprivation, the death rate would be double.

"If we focus on averaging alone, we could easily miss all the work that needs to be done and result in an 'easy win' rather than finding the forgotten children," Lake said. "I am convinced that this is not only the right thing in moral terms but also the right thing in practical terms."

UNICEF, the world's largest provider of vaccines in developing nations, supports child health, nutrition clean water and sanitation and basic education in more than 150 countries -- including Pakistan, which this month is occupying the agency.

The agency says that 6 million children have been affected by the deadly floods with 2.7 million children urgently in need of life-saving equipment. At this stage, UNICEF is helping the government help provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene in an effort to prevent major outbreaks of water-borne diseases (cholera, scabies, diarrhea).

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