HIV, Poor Prenatal Care Contribute to High Under-Five Child Mortality Rates Worldwide, UNICEF Report Says
Poor prenatal care, HIV and other preventable illnesses contribute to high rates of mortality among children under the age of five worldwide -- but especially in sub-Saharan Africa -- and progress in reducing child deaths has been "alarmingly slow," according to a UNICEF report released on Friday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The annual "Progress for Children" report indicates that few of the world's developing countries will meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of child deaths by two-thirds by 2015, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Although HIV/AIDS is a "chief underlying cause" of child deaths, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, inadequate prenatal care and health care delivery still cause the greatest proportion of preventable deaths, AFP/Yahoo News! reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 10/8). "It is incredible that in an age of technological and medical marvels, child survival is so tenuous in so many places, especially for the poor and marginalized," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said, adding, "The world has the tools to improve child survival, if only it would use them." UNICEF said that 90 countries, including 53 developing nations, are expected to meet the development goal, but 98 countries are "stagnating or going backward," the AP/Long Island Newsday reports. "No government should be allowed to let another 10 years pass with so little progress," Bellamy said, adding, "Leaders have agreed to have goals and they must be held accountable" (Nadler, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/7).
One in 12 children worldwide does not live to age five, and half of those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the AP/Washington Post reports. In 2002, 158 children per 1,000 births in the world's poorest countries died before age five, compared with seven deaths per 1,000 births in industrialized countries, according to the report. In more than one-third of sub-Saharan African countries, child mortality rates either have increased or remained stable, according to the report. Iraq was the only country in the Middle East and North Africa where the child mortality rate increased, from one in 20 in 1990 to one in 10 in 2002 (AP/Washington Post, 10/8). The 10 countries with the highest child mortality rates since 2002 include Sierra Leone, Niger, Angola, Afghanistan, Liberia, Somalia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Congo. Sweden has the lowest rate of under-five child mortality among industrialized nations, with three deaths per 1,000 births (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/7).
In addition to HIV/AIDS, "inadequate" prenatal health care, including a lack of "skilled help" during childbirth and infectious and parasitic diseases -- such as diarrhea, respiratory ailments, malaria and measles -- are significant contributing factors to under-five child mortality, according to the report, Reuters reports. Malnutrition, unsafe water supply, poor sanitation, armed conflicts and social instability also are contributing factors, according to Reuters. "Vaccines, micronutrient supplements and insecticide-treated mosquito nets don't cost much and would save millions of children," Bellamy said, adding, "But not enough children are being reached with these basic lifesavers" (Arieff, Reuters, 10/7). Although most countries will not meet the goal of reducing under-five child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, UNICEF said that the overall figure of one in 12 deaths is a great improvement over the one in five death rate in the 1960s, the AP/Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 10/8).