Europe and Central Asia has surpassed global progress on child mortality, more than halving the deaths of children under five and infants since 1990. And as progress for the poorest households has accelerated, the health gap between the richest and poorest has narrowed.
However, persistent inequities reflect a continued failure to invest effectively in child-centred health systems for all. In South-East Europe, for example, child mortality among the Roma population is two to three times higher than national averages.
Problems missed at an early age can be more difficult and expensive to address later in life.
Such inequities are compounded by a failure to spot problems during pregnancy and during the first 1,000 days of life, when children’s bodies and brains build the foundations for their life-long development. Problems missed at an early age can be far more difficult and expensive to address later in life.
Across the region, more than half of the children who die before their fifth birthday die in their first month of life.These deaths are often the result of conditions that are readily preventable or treatable at low cost through, for example, access to good obstetric, ante-natal and post-natal care, routine immunization and exclusive breastfeeding. The main killers of children under the age of five in the region are also preventable: pneumonia and injuries.
Emergencies have an intense impact on child health and nutrition.
The impact of emergencies on children's health and nutrition can be extreme. Children on the move, such as those caught in Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis, for example, often lack adequate clothing, food, shelter or warmth. Access to health services, including immunization, has often been inadequate on their journey.
The region’s existing HIV prevalence, coupled with lack of safe water and sanitation, as well as ongoing challenges related to early child development and protection all heighten the vulnerability of children during emergencies.
The region is also experiencing vaccine ‘hesitancy’ – the reluctance of some parents to immunize their children, or parental delays in immunization. This hesitancy, often fuelled by misinformation, puts children at risk of contracting, and even dying from, infectious diseases, including polio and measles.