Some 35 million more children under five at risk if global child mortality goal not met
MANILA and NEW YORK, 13 September 2013- A new UNICEF report shows that if current trends continue, the world will not meet Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4) – to cut the rate of under-five mortality by two-thirds by 2015. Worse, if current trends continue, the goal will not be reached until 2028.
The cost of inaction is alarmingly high: as many as 35 million more children could die mostly from preventable causes between 2015 and 2028, if the global community does not take immediate action to accelerate progress.
“Yes, we should celebrate the progress,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “But how can we celebrate when there is so much more to do before we reach the goal? And we can speed up the progress - we know how, but we need to act with a renewed sense of urgency,” he said.
Globally, the pace of decline has accelerated with the annual rate of decline tripling since the 1990s. Sub-Saharan Africa has also accelerated its rate of decline, with its annual rate of reduction increased more than fivefold since the early 1990s. In the past seven years, Eastern and Southern Africa has been among the best performing regions in the world, reducing under-five mortality at an annual rate of 5.3 per cent in 2005-2012.
The first month of life is the most precarious for a young child. In 2012, close to three million babies died during the first month of life, mostly from easily preventable causes.
In the Philippines, deaths among children below five remain highest in the poorest sectors of society, in rural areas, and among families with low educational status. The inequities in child and maternal health are most profound in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas of the country but are also to be found in urban settings where areas populated by informal settlers are on the rise.
“We need to do more to reach the most vulnerable children, and ensure that each one of them not only survives, but thrives. UNICEF provides assistance to give children the best possible start in life by working at the national and LGU levels to increase the quality of care, the coverage of births attended by skilled birth attendants, and the number of facility-based deliveries with postnatal and neonatal care,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi says.
Country progress examples
• In Bangladesh, under-five mortality rate decreased by 72 per cent from 1990 to 2012, mainly thanks to expanding immunization for children, delivering oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhoea, and providing Vitamin A supplementation. Expanding a network of community health workers also improved the quality of healthcare and led to an increased use of health facilities. Women’s empowerment, education for mothers, improving mothers’ health and implementing strategies to reduce poverty also contributed to reducing child deaths.
• In Brazil, under-five mortality rate decreased by 77 per cent between 1990 and 2012, thanks to a combination of tactics. These include efforts to deliver healthcare at the community level, improvements in sanitation conditions, providing mothers with knowledge, promoting breastfeeding and expanding immunization.
• Ethiopia, a co-sponsor of the Call to Action, has recorded tremendous gains in reducing the under-five mortality rate, with a dramatic 67 per cent reduction since 1990. The health extension programme implemented in Ethiopia is one example of how critical community health workers are in providing quality care to children and mothers in remote areas. The programme which was launched in 2004 currently deploys 38,000 government-paid female health extension workers. UNICEF supports the programme by providing supplies including vaccine storage equipment, delivery beds and medications, and supporting training for health workers. The programme also provides treatment of severe acute malnutrition, diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.
• The Philippines Department of Health has committed to the Global Every Newborn Action Plan, revisiting national policies and strategies to address the top three preventable causes of newborn deaths: complications of prematurity, asphyxia and infections.
The movement emerged from the Child Survival Call to Action, a high-level forum convened in June 2012 by the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, in collaboration with UNICEF, to examine ways to spur progress on child survival. Partners from government, civil society and the private sector emerged from the Call to Action forum with a revitalized commitment to child survival.