About 9.7M Children Under Age Five Die Annually From Preventable Diseases, Including HIV/AIDS, UNICEF Report Says
About 9.7 million children worldwide under age five die annually from preventable and treatable causes, including HIV/AIDS, according to a UNICEF report released on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
According to the report, titled "The State of the World's Children 2008," although the annual number of deaths among children under age five is below 10 million for the first time, more than 26,000 children worldwide still die daily. Nearly half of sub-Saharan African countries have had either stable or worsening rates of child mortality since 1990, and only three sub-Saharan African countries -- Cape Verde, Eritrea and Seychelles -- are on track to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals' target for child survival, according to the report (Nebehay, Reuters, 1/22). The goal calls for reducing by two-thirds the 1990 child mortality rate by 2015, according to BBC News (BBC News, 1/22). According to the report, the current rate must be reduced by 50% to meet the target (Engeler, AP/Google.com, 1/23).
The report found that in Sierra Leone, 270 children of every 1,000 die before age five, compared with three children per 1,000 in the best-performing countries, including Singapore and Sweden (BBC News, 1/22). The child mortality rate in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased by 14% since 1990, and the region contains 28 of the 30 countries with the highest child mortality rates, the report said (AP/Google.com, 1/23).
The report also found that inadequate progress on child survival has been made in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Mortality rates in East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean have almost halved to 27 deaths per 1,000 live births, meaning these regions are on track to meet MDG targets, according to the reports.
According to the report, child mortality could be reduced through "simple, reliable and affordable interventions" that are "readily available" and have the "potential to save two-thirds of the children currently at risk." Such interventions include breastfeeding, providing immunizations and distributing insecticide-treated nets. Obstacles to implementing the interventions include disease-specific approaches to health care in developing countries, the low profile of maternal and child health, inadequate financing and a lack of political will, the report found (BBC News, 1/22). In addition, there are challenges associated with efforts to increase children's life expectancies in countries highly affected by HIV/AIDS that have weak health systems (Reuters, 1/22).
The report adds that more needs to be done to increase access to treatment for HIV/AIDS and other diseases, including malaria and pneumonia. In addition, the report calls for:
- Collaboration with community-based groups;
- Integrated health systems;
- Mainstreaming of maternal, newborn and child health into national strategic planning programs; and
- Improved quality and increased, predictable funding (UNICEF release, 1/22).
The report is available online. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.