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Tracking Progress on Child Survival

NEW YORK, 18 September 2006:  Political leaders and health experts gather in New York today to discuss how to prevent the deaths of millions of children before their fifth birthday.

The Government of Norway, the Lancet and UNICEF are jointly hosting a Symposium on Child Survival in New York, coinciding with the UN General Assembly. The symposium will call for stronger health services in countries with high child mortality, better access to medical supplies and low-cost health measures to prevent child deaths, and increased government and donor support for child survival.

Panelists will highlight the fact that few of the countries with high child mortality levels are on track to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 – the fourth Millennium Development Goal. Around 29,000 children under the age of five die each day and most of these deaths are preventable. Pneumonia alone kills more children under five than any other disease according to a UNICEF/WHO report launched today – two million children under five each year – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

“Children are our best investment,” says Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway “What we do for our children, for the world’s children, more than anything else we leave behind, forms our legacy as political leaders. For that reason, I call for courageous steps to protect our children, our common future.”

UNICEF and its partners have carried out a focused assessment of key maternal, neonatal and child survival indicators across the 60 countries with high child mortality, published in a special issue of the Lancet today. These countries account for 94 per cent of all under-five deaths worldwide. The majority have made little or no progress on child mortality, while 14 countries saw child mortality rates increase between 1990 and 2004. Of the 20 countries with the highest under-five mortality levels, more than half are affected by AIDS and/or armed conflict and all have high poverty rates.

However, the assessment also finds success stories, with seven countries set to reach the 2015 goal: Bangladesh; Brazil; Egypt; Indonesia; Mexico; Nepal and the Philippines.

“Dramatic gains in child survival within some countries point the way toward successful strategies that can work on a broader scale,” says Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “Such strategies include integrated, community-based approaches that address maternal and child health, nutrition, AIDS prevention and water and sanitation.”
 
Global health partnerships such as the Measles Initiative have already helped to halve measles-related deaths in the past five years. The Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign is mobilizing resources for women and children living with HIV/AIDS.  New tools have the potential to reduce under-five mortality, including vaccines for pneumococcus and rotavirus; zinc treatment for diarrhoea; long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets; new combination treatments for malaria and antiretrovirals to prevent and treat HIV. Building on the African Union Framework for Child Survival, such interventions now need to be combined, packaged, costed and scaled-up as part of a global business plan to reach MDG4.

BACKGROUND

The Lancet special issue on Child Survival, containing the Countdown Report assessing progress in 60 priority countries, is available from: http://www.thelancet.com

Pneumonia: the Forgotten Killer of Children, is published today by UNICEF and WHO and is available on the UNICEF website: http://www.unicef.org

Attention Broadcasters:
Video feature stories on child survival from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Nepal and Niger are being placed on the Newsmarket between 14 and 18 September.  A news package from the Symposium will also be available on 18 September. To visit the Newsmarket, go to:  http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

This footage will also be made to APTN clients via Unifeed: http://www.un.org/unifeed

About UNICEF
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information:

Angela Hawke, UNICEF New York, (+1 212) 326 7269, ahawke@unicef.org
Jessica Malter, UNICEF New York, (+ 212) 326 7412
Anne Thurmann-Nielsen, Norwegian Mission to the UN (+1 212) 310 1557
Trude Måseide, Government of Norway (+47) 95 72 65 10
Udani Samarasakera, Lancet Press Office: (+44) 20 7424 4949

 

 

 
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