Millions Robbed of Their Childhood
Millions Robbed of Their Childhood

By Kieran Guilbert (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

One in four of the world's children - at least 700 million - have had their childhood cut short by factors ranging from illness and conflict to child marriage and being out of school, according to Save the Children.

The hardest-hit children live in West and Central Africa - which accounted for seven of the 10 bottom-ranked countries in Save the Children's first 'End of Childhood' index, ranking 172 nations by where childhood is most intact or eroded.

Niger, Angola and Mali were the worst-ranked countries for children in the annual index, which was topped by Norway, Slovenia and Finland.

Most of the affected 700 million children live in disadvantaged communities in developing countries, where they have been bypassed by progress in health, education and technology that has improved the lives of many of their peers, the charity said.

"Many of these children suffer from a toxic mix of poverty and discrimination, and experience several childhood enders," Save the Children International's Chief Executive Helle Thorning-Schmidt told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Here are some facts about the plight of children worldwide:

    - More than one in six school-age children - 263 million - are out of education

    - An estimated 168 million children are involved in child labour, half of whom are doing hazardous work such as mining, scavenging and working in textile factories

    - A quarter of the world's children aged under five - about 156 million - have stunted growth due to malnutrition

    - At least 15 million girls are married each year before the age of 18, four million of whom are wed before turning 15

    - Conflict and persecution have forced 28 million children to flee their homes, with 11 million living as refugees or asylum seekers, and 17 million internally displaced

    - About 16 million girls give birth between the ages of 15 and 19 each year, and one million deliver when younger than 15

    - At least six million children aged under five die each year

    - More than 75,000 children aged under 20 were murdered in 2015. Sources: Save the Children, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

World News: "Millions Robbed of Their Childhood"