Nearly 5.9 million children will die before their fifth birthday this year mainly of preventable causes, a UN report has warned, though the child mortality rate has fallen by more than 50 per cent since 1990.
The mortality rate among children under five has fallen from 12.7 million deaths per year in 1990 to under six million in 2015, a report by the World Health Organization and UN’s children agency UNICEF said. The report, released earlier this week, further says that 16,000 children under the age of five still die every day. Nearly half of the infant deaths are tied to malnutrition, and 45 per cent occur during the first 28 days of life.
Acknowledging the progress in reducing child mortality rate since 1990, UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta, however, also pointed to the huge challenges that remain.
“We have to acknowledge tremendous global progress,” said Gupta, “But the far too large number of children still dying from preventable causes before their fifth birthday- and indeed within their first month of life- should impel us to redouble our efforts to do what we know needs to be done.”
Steps taken around the world have prevented the deaths of an estimated 48 million children since 2000, the report said. Prematurity, pneumonia, complications during labour and delivery, diarrhoea, sepsis, and malaria are leading causes of deaths of children under five years of age.
Nearly half of all under-five deaths are associated with undernutrition. However, most child deaths are easily preventable by proven and readily available interventions. The report also highlighted that a child’s chance of survival varies hugely based on its birthplace.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with one child in 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday- more than 12 times higher than the one in 147 average in high-income countries.
World leaders are expected to adopt a new set of goals for the next 15 years at a UN summit later this month. UNICEF said 38 million more lives of young children can be saved if progress to reduce child mortality is accelerated.
The new target will be 25 or fewer under-five deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030. “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,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.