Act swifly on child mortality: Unicef

Saturday October 21 2017


By By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

 One in 36 children dies during the first month of life in Sub-Saharan Africa while in the world’s high income countries, one in 333 child dies during the same life period, a new report by the United Nations shows.

The UN says 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday in the year 2016, globally. But 46 per cent of them—or 7,000 babies—died in the first 28 days of life.

Unless the rate of progress improves, more than 60 countries will miss the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end preventable deaths of newborns by 2030, UN has warmed.

It further says that half would not meet the target of 12 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births by 2050.

In Tanzania, the National Demographic Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHS-MIS) of 2015-16 shows that Tanzania’s childhood mortality rates have greatly diminished over the last 25 years.

“Infant mortality [in Tanzania] has decreased from 92 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991-92 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015-16,’’ says the TDHS-MIS.

According to the new UN report, titled: “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017,’’ the number of children dying globally before the age of five is at a new low– 5.6 million in 2016, compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000.

For the first time, mortality data for older children age 5 to 14 was included in the report, capturing other causes of death such as accidents and injuries. About 1 million children aged 5 to 14 died in 2016.

“This new report highlights the remarkable progress since 2000 in reducing mortality among children under age 5,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr Liu Zhenmin.

The report says the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period has increased from 41 per cent to 46 per cent during the same period.

“The lives of 50 million children under-five have been saved since 2000, a testament to the serious commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths,” said the Unicef Chief of Health, Mr Stefan Swartling Peterson.

“But unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required – we just need to take them where they are most needed.”

These countries account for about 80 per cent of neonatal deaths in 2016. Most newborn deaths occurred in two regions: Southern Asia (39 per cent) and sub-Saharan Africa (38 per cent).

Five countries accounted for half of all new-born deaths: India (24 per cent), Pakistan (10 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 per cent) and Ethiopia (3 percent).

The report notes that many lives can be saved if global inequities are reduced. If all countries achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 per cent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.

“It is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7 000 newborns die daily,” said Tim Evans, Senior Director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.

“The best measure of success for Universal Health Coverage is that every mother should not only be able to access health care easily, but that it should be quality, affordable care that will ensure a healthy and productive life for her children and family.

Pneumonia and diarrhea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, accounting for 16 per cent and 8 per cent of deaths, respectively.

Preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth were the causes of 30 per cent of newborn deaths in 2016.

In addition to the 5.6 million under-5 deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, the majority of which could be prevented.

Ending preventable child deaths can be achieved by improving access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth; lifesaving interventions, UN insists.

“Despite this progress, large disparities in child survival still exist across regions and countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet many deaths at these ages are easily preventable through simple, cost-effective interventions administered before, during and immediately after birth.

Reducing inequities and reaching the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers are essential for achieving the SDG target on ending preventable childhood deaths and for ensuring that no one will be left behind.”