UNICEF Report: Malaysia scores high marks to reduce child deaths
KUALA LUMPUR, 18 November 2004 – New country-by-country data released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reveals Malaysia’s remarkable achievements to reduce its under-five child mortality rates.
With an 8% rate of reduction in the last decade, the country’s progress is ranked number one in the East Asia and Pacific region and second only to Malta in the world. Titled ‘Progress for Children’ the Report was launched in Malaysia today by Minister of Health, Datuk Dr. Chua Soi Lek in conjunction with Universal Children’s Day on 20 November.
The global Report highlights Malaysia’s progress amidst an alarming slowdown in the region which only managed an average rate of progress of less than 2 per cent per annum over the last decade, compared to 5 per cent throughout the 1960s and 1970s. With the current rate of progress, Malaysia is one of just 13 countries in the region that is on track to meet its obligations of a two-thirds reduction in national child deaths by 2015.
Malaysia, an example in action
“Malaysia is an example in action. As a result of visionary leadership, a strong commitment to the wellbeing of children and investment in health and education, it has been able to reduce its under-five mortality rates from 21 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 8 per 1,000 in 2002. The country’s achievements are all the more impressive given its relatively low starting base and the sharp constraints on public finances imposed by the Asian financial crisis of 1997 to 1999”, said Ms. Gaye Phillips, UNICEF’s Malaysia Representative.
Malaysia’s achievements however are not shared by all countries in the world. Over 10 million children continue to die each year mostly from preventable causes such diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, malaria, measles, malnutrition as well as unsafe water and poor sanitation. New threats have also emerged claiming the lives of children, and these include HIV/AIDS which has led to a spiraling of under-five child deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa while conflict and social instability has spiked child mortality rates in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interventions such as expanded immunisation program, integrated management of childhood illnesses and preventing mother to child transmission of HIV are some of the ways to reduce child mortality. Further attention also needs to be given to improving the health of new born children and their mothers. The health and survival of the child, especially in early infancy is intricately linked with the health status of the mother, her nutritional status and the reproductive health care that she receives.
Delivering to those in need
Remarkable progress can be made in all countries and not just a handful, using interventions available today. The challenge is for us to act now using what we already know and to deliver what we already have at our disposal to the children, women and families who most need them”, concluded Ms. Phillips.
Overall, 90 countries – including 53 in the developing world are on target to reduce under five child mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015, but another 98 developing nations trail behind. At the current rate of progress, the average global rate of reduction will have dropped by roughly one quarter by 2015, instead of the two-thirds reduction agreed by world leaders at the Millennium Summit in 2000.
NOTE TO EDITOR
About Progress for Children