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Child mortality plunges 53% worldwide

But 16,000 under-5s still die daily

By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has announced a significant reduction of over 53 percent in child mortality even as it regretted that the global Millennium Development Goal, MDG, target for child survival was missed by a wide margin.

A new report by the global health body showed a massive drop of under-five deaths from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015.

According to WHO, the landmark reduction is the first year the figure has gone below the 6 million.

The report, released by United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, highlighted concerns by stakeholders including the WHO, World Bank Group, and the Population Division of United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNDESA, that 16, 000 children aged below 5 still die everyday.

The report tagged, “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2015” also indicated that the 53 percent drop in under-five mortality is not enough to meet the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction between 1990 and 2015.

Causes of death: “A massive 45 percent of under-five deaths occur in the neonatal period – the first 28 days of life. Prematurity, pneumonia, complications during labour and delivery, diarrhoea, sepsis, and malaria are leading causes of death for children under 5 years old. Nearly half of all under-five deaths are associated with undernutrition.”

The rate of reduction of child mortality can speed up considerably by concentrating on regions with the highest levels – sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia – and ensuring a targeted focus on newborns.

On his part, Assistant Director General at WHO, Dr. Flavia Bustreo who argued that individuals know how to prevent unnecessary newborn mortality explained that quality care around the time of childbirth including simple affordable steps like ensuring early skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding and extra care for small and sick babies can save thousands of lives every year.

Bustreo said the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, at the UN General Assembly this month, would be a major catalyst for giving all newborns the best chance at a healthy start in life.

Child survival: The report further highlights that a child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born. For instance Nigeria and many other countries are not fully on track to attaining the MDGs on child survival.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with 1 child in 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday.

In 2000-2015, the region has overall accelerated its annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality to about two and a half times what it was in 1990-2000.

Immense challenge

“Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, however, continues to confront the immense challenge of a burgeoning under-five population – projected to increase by almost 30 percent in the next 15 years coupled with persistent poverty in many countries.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Wu Hongbo, says the new report confirms a key finding of the 2015 Revision of the World Population Prospects on the remarkable decline in child mortality globally during the 15-year MDG era.”

Progress: “Rapid improvements since 2000 have saved the lives of millions of children. However, this progress will need to continue and even accelerate further, especially in high-mortality countries of sub-Saharan Africa, if we are to reach the proposed child survival target of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”


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