|© UNICEF USA/2005|
|Experts met at Harvard University to discuss ways of reducing child mortality.|
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By Jane O’Brien
BOSTON, 26 April 2005 - Every year some 10.8 million children under the age of five die from causes that could mostly be prevented. Reducing the child mortality among children under five by two thirds is one of the Millennium Development Goals. But around the world – particularly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – millions of children do not receive the care and support that could save their lives.
Socio-cultural, religious and ethnic discrimination are among the reasons why some children do not get the health services they need. On 22 April 2005, Harvard University and UNICEF organized a symposium on the topic Addressing Social Barriers to Achieving Child Survival.
The meeting brought together leading experts on child health and child rights to look at ways to better quantify the impact of social barriers on child survival, as well as to look at strategies to overcome these barriers.
“Today we live in a world where we can’t just look at the averages,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “We have to go through and find out where are the most marginalized children. They may be indigenous children in Guatemala in Latin America, they may be hill tribe children in Asia or they may be children of African descent living in Brazil.”
‘We don’t have to solve poverty to solve child survival’
Recent studies have shown that two thirds of all child deaths and three quarters of all maternal deaths could be prevented if full use was made of medical interventions that are already available.
“Lots can be done to make health care more accessible to the poorest,” said Ronald Waldman, Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University. “But under-utilization is another problem that has many causes. In one country, children weren’t vaccinated because the women would not go out in public. Little research has been done into these problems, let alone the solutions.”
Delegates stressed the importance of listening to communities when introducing health services and programmes that could improve child survival rates and called for further research into this area.
Professor Robert Black of Johns Hopkins University said that the problem sometimes seemed overwhelming because inequity in health care was often caused by extreme poverty.
“But we don’t have to solve poverty to solve child survival,” he said. “We can do that today.”
A report is being compiled on the findings of the meeting, which is the first in a series organized by UNICEF.
26 April 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Jane O’Brien reports on the child survival meeting at Harvard University.
26 April 2005:
Daniel Tarantola, Professor at the University of New South Wales, Australia, outlines issues
26 April 2005:
Harvard Professor Judith Palfrey voices hope for the future