World

UN Global Goals: Five lives the world wants to change

  • 24 September 2015
  • From the section World
Five children headshots

Five children tell the BBC about their hopes and dreams for the future - as the United Nations unveils an ambitious new set of Global Goals.

The 17 goals build on the progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of this year. They aim to eliminate poverty and hunger and help fight climate change over the next 15 years.

We will return to these children over the years, as they grow older, to find out whether their lives improve as a result of the UN's plan.

Image caption Gift has to go to school hungry because his mother cannot afford to give him breakfast

Gift Charles, 10, and his five siblings live in the village of Gomani, close to Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city.

His mother, Margaret John, earns about $100 per month for the family from selling homemade beer. But food remains scarce, partly due to flooding in the region that has swept away crops. Gift goes to school on an empty stomach because they cannot afford breakfast.

Malawi is one of the least-developed countries in the world and most of the country's 13 million population are employed in subsistence farming. The elimination of hunger is one of the UN's top priorities, and a key part is the promotion of sustainable agriculture.

Only a small proportion of the country's population has electricity. Gift's village is without power. Estimates vary but upwards of 85% of the population still use wood or charcoal for cooking.

Media captionSchoolboy Gift Charles talks about his life in a small village in Malawi and his hopes for the future.
Image caption Pamela lives in a makeshift house on a traffic island on the outskirts of Mexico City

Pamela Lizeth Hernández Viviano, 11, lives in a makeshift house on a traffic island in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Despite getting good grades at school, she was told she was not eligible for a scholarship because she does not have a permanent address. Her family live on about US$237 per month.

The number of those living in extreme poverty has significantly decreased in Mexico in recent years. But despite being the second-biggest economy in Latin America, World Bank figures show 40% of the country's wealth is held by just 10% of the population.

While the UN's number one goal is to end global poverty, another is specifically aimed at reducing inequality, both in and between countries - a recognition that economic growth alone is not enough.

Media captionSchoolgirl Pamela Viviano dreams of becoming an air stewardess when she grows up
Image caption Farzana has to work as a domestic servant to supplement her family's income

Farzana Usman, 13, lives by the Ibrahim Hyderi Fish Harbour in Karachi, Pakistan. She is the eldest of three children and lives with her extended family in a two-room house. Although both her parents are in employment, their low wage is not sufficient for the family, and Farzana also has to work.

Poverty is still widespread in Pakistan and the proportion of the population not getting enough to eat has increased since 2010 as high inflation has pushed up food prices. Farzana's family does not always have enough food to go around.

Figures suggest more than a quarter of students enrolled in primary schools do not complete their education. Farzana is 13, but she has only been in school for two years.

Media captionTeenager Farzana hopes one day to become a teacher, but her family is struggling to make ends meet
Image caption Taina loves living in the Amazon rainforest but she is worried about the harm done by illegal loggers

Taina, nine, is part of the Tembe tribe and lives in Ytwacu indigenous village in the Brazilian rainforest, in a mud brick house covered with cement. She would like to see the land "unoccupied" and for there to be no more deforestation, "so that the river will remain full, the animals can live".

Brazil has made great strides in reducing deforestation rates by almost 80% in the past 10 years - although recent figures suggest this progress is slowing. Para state, where Taina lives, had the worst deforestation rates in 2014.

In stark difference to the MDGs, the new UN agenda sets out targets for reducing climate change and promoting sustainable ecosystems. A key aim is to halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and increase reforestation, by 2020.

Media captionNine-year-old Taina is aware of the dangers of deforestation in Brazil
Image caption Volodya cannot get to school in winter because the route is impassable in a wheelchair

Eleven-year-old Volodya Khomutovskyi, from the Ukrainian village of Yabluneve, has cerebral palsy. His mother takes him to school but he is unable to attend class in winter because the route becomes impassable.

He would like to go to college or university but says he won't be able to because he is unable to board the train by himself.

One seventh of the world's population - one billion people - has a disability. While the MDGs were criticised for being silent on disability, the new UN agenda explicitly includes it in its goals. According to a UN report, some 80% of people with disabilities live in poverty.

Media captionEleven-year-old Volodya Khomutovskyi has to use a wheelchair to get about because he has cerebral palsy

The UN Global Goals run until 2030. We will be returning to the five children to hear how their lives - and those of their communities - have changed over the years.

Sources: All data UN/World Bank

Interviews, videos and pictures: Christian Parkinson, Julia Carneiro, Chuck Tayman, Oleg Karpyak, Sergiy Poliakov, Juan Paullier, Deborah Bonello, Shumaila Khan, Sharjil Baloch

Video production by Olivia Lang

Web production: Alison Trowsdale. Graphics Mark Bryson, Tom Nurse, Marcelo Zanni