Young child survival and development

International conference calls on the world community to save 30 million young lives over next decade

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Each year more than 10 million children die of preventable diseases before their fifth birthday. ‘Tracking Progress in Child Survival: Countdown to 2015’ is an international initiative calling for donors and governments to live up to their commitment to reduce child mortality by two thirds in the decade ahead.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 13 December 2005 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman is attending an international conference in London challenging the world to seize an unprecedented opportunity to save 30 million young lives. ‘Tracking Progress in Child Survival: Countdown to 2015’ is an international initiative calling for donors and governments to live up to their commitment to reduce child mortality by two thirds in the decade ahead.

Child mortality: Dire statistics

Each year more than 10 million children die of preventable diseases before their fifth birthday. Of these 10 million children, 4 million die in the first month of life. Malnutrition, lack of safe water and inadequate sanitation contribute to more than half of these deaths. It is an emergency that is both moral and economic.

“Child mortality is one of the world’s most urgent crises – and one of the most preventable,” said Ms. Veneman. “By seizing the opportunity to reach this Millennium Development Goal [number 4: reduce child mortality], we could save 30 million young lives in the decade ahead, 10 million through immunization alone.”

Tracking progress: Tracking intervention coverage

For the first time ever the landmark report assembles the latest data on the implementation of 20 simple interventions in the 60 countries where 94 per cent child deaths under five occur. “The good news is that most of these 60 countries are reaching many of their children with at least some interventions – so we can see exactly what needs to be done,” says Jennifer Bryce, a member of the Bellagio Group on Child Survival and one of the report’s authors. The report monitors progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by providing yearly updates. 

Simple treatments can save lives

Saving the life of a child can require simple yet crucial interventions such as breast-feeding, access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, vaccination, and the use of insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria.

Key health services are already reaching more children throughout Africa and Asia. Senegal and Madagascar are two countries that have made significant headway in reducing child mortality rates. But the report shows much remains to be done, with many countries lagging behind minimal requirements.

Only seven countries are on track to meet the millennium target – Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal and the Philippines. None of the priority countries is currently at even minimal coverage levels for all 20 report indicators. 
 
But the report’s data also indicates that, in a very short time, some countries have made dramatic progress in saving lives, increasing coverage in one or more interventions by at least 10 per cent.

The world today has an unprecedented opportunity to reduce child mortality in the poorest countries – a chance that cannot be missed. “The message we have today for the world is simple: unprecedented opportunities are before us,” says UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam. “There have been advances in the management of child illness in the community, particularly the big three: pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea. These strategies save more lives for less money.”

‘Tracking Progress in Child Survival: Countdown to 2015’ is being held at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The two-day event (13-14 December) was organized by the Child Survival Partnership on behalf of various institutions and agencies, including UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Save the Children and the Bellagio Group.


 

 

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13 December 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on the launch of ‘Tracking Progress in Child Survival: Countdown to 2015’, an international initiative to help combat child mortality.

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