1 in 4 children have childhood cut short - index

Niger, Angola and Mali were ranked the worst countries for children to live in while Norway, Slovenia and Finland were ranked the best.

FILE: Refugee children from South Sudan walk in Bidibidi resettlement camp. Picture: AFP

BAMAKO - 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, Save the Children said on Wednesday.

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.