A new UNICEF report has revealed that 46 percent of girls in South Asia marry before their 18th birthday as children in the region continue to pay the price of persistent inequality.

The report, released on Thursday, said that more than two million South Asian children die before their fifth birthday of preventable causes and nearly 38 percent of the region's children have chronic malnutrition.

"South Asia is one of the riskiest places in the world to become pregnant or give birth, with the second highest number of maternal deaths worldwide," UNICEF South Asia regional director Karin Hulshof said in a press release.

According to UNICEF, Africa has the highest number of maternal deaths.

The key findings were set out in a new publication Improving Children’s Lives, Transforming the Future – 25 years of child rights in South Asia, which analyses progress made over the last 25 years on key issues that directly affect the lives of children.

The report found that 18 percent of girls in South Asia marry before age 15.

According to UNICEF, in some countries, very progressive legislation has been enacted, establishing children’s legally enforceable rights to health, education, protection and participation.

Yet, pervasive poverty and disparities prevent millions of children in South Asia from living in dignity, reaching their potential and making choices about their own future.

Approximately 8 million children below the age of one are not immunised, according to the report

“Despite rapid economic growth in the region and consequent improvements in realizing the rights of children, massive disparities still exist which prevent millions of children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures," Hulshof said.

"The good news is that we have the knowhow and innovative approaches to make positive changes in the lives of children in South Asia," she added.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies