Child mortality is decreasing, but is still far too high
Rapidly declining global child mortality. In the past twenty years, the number of deaths of children under the age of five worldwide has almost halved, according to the latest report by the children's aid organization UNICEF. Nevertheless, around 19,000 children still die every day, according to a joint report by UNICEF and other UN organizations.
From more than twelve million deaths among children under the age of five in 1990, child mortality dropped to 6.9 million in 2011, reports UNICEF. However, the progress is very unevenly distributed. The particularly poor children and toddlers continue to bear the highest risk, according to the UN Children's Fund. Complications often occur during pregnancy and childbirth, which are fatal to the offspring. "Taken together, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in children under the age of five," reports UNICEF. According to current figures, 40 percent of child deaths occur in the first 28 days of life. Around three million babies did not survive this period last year.
High child mortality due to poor hygiene and drinking water supply
As UNICEF reports, "most deaths in children are due to five causes: pneumonia (18 percent), preterm birth complications (14 percent), diarrheal diseases (11 percent), birth complications (9 percent) and malaria (7 percent)." Around "a third of children's deaths are related to chronic and acute malnutrition," the experts from the UN Children's Fund continue. Improvements in hygiene, drinking water supply and disease prevention have proven to be the most effective weapons in the fight against child mortality. Vaccination campaigns - UNICEF procures around 50 percent of all vaccines worldwide - but also simple and inexpensive measures such as the distribution of impregnated mosquito nets to prevent malaria have shown very promising success. The training of midwives has also significantly improved children's chances of survival. However, the most important thing is hygiene and clean drinking water. Because "more children die from diarrheal diseases as a result of a lack of access to clean water and safe hygiene than from AIDS, malaria and measles combined," explained Barbara Frost from the British aid organization WaterAid.
Three million children under the age of five died
“The fight against child mortality has been successful. With vaccinations, impregnated mosquito nets and better obstetrics, cost-effective methods are available that can save lives, ”said the managing director of UNICEF Germany, Christian Schneider. Through the implementation of appropriate measures, the worldwide child mortality rate has dropped from 87 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011, which represents a decrease of 41 percent, reports UNICEF. According to UNICEF director Anthony Lake, significant progress can also be observed in poor countries such as Bangladesh, Liberia or Rwanda. Here, the number of child deaths has dropped by more than two thirds in the past twenty years. Nevertheless, "there is still a lot to do," because "millions of children under the age of five continue to die every year from avoidable causes for which there are proven and affordable remedies," stressed Lake. The progress made so far is clearly not enough to achieve the millennium development goal of reducing child mortality worldwide by two thirds by 2015, the UNICEF director criticized.
Particularly high child mortality in Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali and Chad
According to UNICEF, the “risk of children dying from preventable or treatable diseases remains very high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. For example, in Sierra Leone, the country with the highest child mortality rate, 185 children per 1,000 live births do not have their fifth birthday. In Germany, this affects three out of every 1,000 children. Although there are inexpensive ways to reduce child mortality, little has happened in some places in recent years. It is "unacceptable that in countries like Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali or Chad every fifth to sixth child still does not survive," emphasized Christian Schneider. However, global development gives hope: for example, the number of children who died from measles has dropped from an estimated 500,000 in 2000 to 100,000 in 2011.
Deaths from severe diarrhea have declined from 1.2 million to around 700,000 in the past ten years. This is mainly attributed to improved hygiene and drinking water supply. However, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal, the international community, local governments and aid organizations worldwide still have to intensify their efforts in the fight against child mortality. (fp)
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