Significant reductions in under-five child mortality worldwide, says recent UNICEF “A Promise Renewed” Report, yet much work remains
Statement by the UNICEF Representative in Guinea
CONAKRY, Guinea, 16 September 2013 – “On Friday, UNICEF released its “A Promised Renewed Report” which examines the issue of mortality among children under five years old worldwide. The report reveals that, thanks to global and national efforts, the lives of 90 million children worldwide were saved in the past 22 years; children who would otherwise have died if mortality rates had remained at the same levels as in 1990.
In Guinea, we have also witnessed remarkable progress. Since 1990, the number of children dying before the age of five has fallen 58 per cent. The opportunity to end preventable child deaths in Guinea has never been greater than it is today.
While this is certainly welcome news and it demonstrates that progress, even in the face of immense challenges, can be made, it is not good enough. Guinea is still one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child under five years old. Over 100 children die out of every 1000 born.
It is even more distressing that so many of these children die within the first day and month of their life. In Guinea more than 29 out of 1000 babies died in 2012 before completing their first month of life, a great tragedy for the parents and a great loss for societies.
But this situation should not be dismissed simply as ‘the way it is’. We know that we have affordable and effective solutions to prevent these children’s deaths.
Pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria together kill 36,500 children in Guinea every year. Typically, it is the poorest and most marginalized children who fall victim to these easily preventable and treatable diseases. Complications due to preterm birth and those that occur during childbirth are also key causes of child mortality.
Additionally, recent studies have shown that malnutrition is the cause of 45% of all under-five deaths.
The solutions are simple. To reverse the devastating effects of diarrhoea on children, UNICEF and partners are working to provide better access to clean water and improved basic sanitation practices. The number of deaths caused by pneumonia can be reduced with better access to proper medicine. Malaria cases will decrease greatly with the use of bed nets. By the end of this year, UNICEF and its partners in the government and civil society will have distributed two bed nets to every family in Guinea. To address the staggering amount of neonatal cases, UNICEF Guinea has embarked on a campaign to increase the number of babies delivered by healthcare professionals, especially in rural settings and set up emergency neonatal care units in key hospitals across the country. Furthermore, UNICEF is supporting timely and quality care for children with severe acute malnutrition.
Healthy children in safe environments are more likely to live longer, stay in school, marry later, realize their dreams, and be productive members of their society creating benefits that reverberate through future generations. And that is what motivates UNICEF to work with partners in the ‘A Promise Renewed’ movement towards eliminating preventable child deaths.
The movement, which is based on shared responsibility for child survival, has indeed grown steadily since its start just over a year ago. Pledges are turning into action on the ground for children.
So far, 176 governments have signed the A Promise Renewed pledge and thousands of civil society groups and private individuals have mobilized actions and resources to dramatically reduce mortality rates even further.
The Government of the Republic of Guinea, which has signed also the pledge, plans to launch this initiative nationally later this year.
With less than 1,000 days to go before the Millennium Development Goals deadline in 2015, now is the time to step up our efforts to make sure that more children in Guinea survive past their fifth birthday, and get the chance to realize their full potential in life.”
Mohamed Ayoya, MD, PhD
Representative, UNICEF Guinea