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Will the world leaders find the right answer?

There can be no doubt that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim high both in ambition and scope.

With five years to go until the deadline for meeting the goals, world leaders are coming together in New York later this month to assess progress and look at what needs to be done to maximise the chances of achieving the successes they are aspiring to.

However, it is becoming clear that there is a flaw in the way the MDGs are measured.

Take the fourth MDG, to reduce by two thirds the proportion of children dying before their fifth birthday.

Despite headline figures showing that a 28 per cent reduction has been achieved since 1990, research published today by Save the Children shows that a failure to focus on the poorest people in some countries has led to an additional four million child deaths over 10 years.

Similar research by UNICEF, also published today, has found that targeting the poorest and most disadvantaged children could save more lives per $1 million spent than the current path.

‘Our findings challenge the traditional thinking that focusing on the poorest and most disadvantaged children is not cost-effective. An equity-focused strategy will yield not only a moral victory – right in principle – but an even more exciting one: right in practice,’ said Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s executive director.

Save the Children’s report also highlights that it’s not necessarily the wealthiest countries that are having the most success in reducing the child mortality rate.

Some of the world’s poorest countries, including Ghana and Bolivia, have managed to reduce child mortality dramatically by focusing on helping the poorest.

But in India, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, the poorest children are up to three times more likely to die than the richest children.

This gives world leaders yet another question to answer at the summit this month: how can they ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable people aren’t left behind in the race to achieve the goals?

There are millions of people across the world whose very survival depends on them finding the right answer.

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