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Mapping the evidence to end injustice against children

By Howard White, CEO, The Campbell Collaboration | June 2018    

The international community has committed itself to ending violence against children, sexual exploitation and trafficking.

The international community is also committed to basing actions on evidence. Billions of dollars are spent each year on programmes without evidence to support them.  And as the evidence base grows we know that much money has been wasted on ineffective approaches.

As I have blogged about previously, a concerted effort is needed to build evidence platforms based on rigorous evidence, preferably summarized in high quality systematic reviews. As a first step toward consolidating the evidence base for this purpose the Campbell Collaboration and UNICEF have produced a mega map showing the interventions and outcomes for which evidence is reported in over 300 systematic reviews.

The map shows that these reviews are most heavily concentrated in the area of health. Around 100 reviews report the effects of ante and post-natal care on mortality, morbidity and other health outcomes.   A similar number examine the effectiveness of community health interventions such as community health workers.

The next most highly populated areas of the map are early child development and education.  There are, for example, around 50 studies reporting the effects of early child nutrition interventions.  More than 20 studies identify which interventions are effective in enhancing cognitive development.  There are fewer studies for education but still a reasonable number – close to 20 reviews assess ways to improve learning and achievement.

But the other areas of the map are mostly empty or nearly empty. So there are few or no high quality reviews to tackle areas such as early marriage, child trafficking and female genital mutilation.

The mega map maps only reviews not impact evaluations. So in these empty areas the next step is to prepare more focused evidence and gap maps which do identify the primary studies. But we know already that the existing Campbell review on trafficking is an empty review – that is it found no studies to include to review. It is a bit dated now so should be updated. The Campbell review of FGM only found a small number of low quality studies – certainly not the size or strength of evidence base needed to tackle this issue.

But the last 15 years have seen a massive rise in the number of development impact evaluations. From barely none in 2000 and before, there are now close to 400 studies published each year. We have learned that it is possible to conduct studies of interventions where it was previously thought difficult to say anything about impact.

So the mega map is a call to arms to all those wanting to end child abuse, child slavery, child prostitution and children being conscripted into fighting wars.  Doing so requires a strategic approach including a strategic approach to building a solid evidence base. We call for the international community to join UNICEF and Campbell in doing what it will take to end injustice against children.

If you would like to run the map please write to Yashika Kanojia at [email protected] to receive an html copy of the map. It can be run on your computer by double-clicking on the file, and opening the html file in a browser.

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