'Unfinished business': Preventing child deaths

Two boys in Cambodia. A new report from UNICEF says child mortality rates are falling. Photo by: Kibae Park / U.N. Photo / CC BY-NC-ND

Global child mortality rates are falling, according to a new report by the United Nation’s children’s agency. But are the numbers even?

Half of the estimated 6.9 million children under 5 who died last year were concentrated in only five countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China. And in Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon and Burkina Faso, deaths rose by 10,000 or more in 2011 compared with 1990 levels.

The greatest burden of under-5 mortality deaths is also highest in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, the top five countries in UNICEF’s under-5 mortality rate league table in 2011 are all from the region: Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali, Chad and Congo.

A number of factors contribute to the deaths of these children  pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, neonatal deaths, undernutrition, and HIV and AIDS. Others are early pregnancy, low levels of maternal education, lack of clean water and sanitation, and maternal mortality. But these can be prevented.

UNICEF encourages governments to follow the plans of actions set forth in Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, a global initiative pushing for more action toward maternal, newborn and child survival:

  • Concentrate resources on countries and regions with the most child deaths.

  • Increase efforts among high-burden populations.

  • Focus on high-impact solutions.

  • Create a supportive environment for child survival.

  • Sustain mutual accountability.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.