The number of children dying around the world is sharply declining, according to a new
UN report released today. For over twenty years there’s been a continuous decline. But data from UNICEF and a UN agency show that the number of children, under the age of five,
has dropped by almost half. The report notes that its due in large part to the progress made in tackling major diseases including polio, measles, and malaria.
It’s good news. But as reports like this do and should remind us, it’s not enough.
Children living in some of the poorest regions of the world are still dying—19,000/day—largely from diseases which are preventable and treatable in other parts of the world. Killers like pneumonia, for example, and diarrhea are conditions entirely
Who are these children? They primarily live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2011, 82 percent of the children who died lived in these two regions—up from 68 percent two decades ago. They live, to be clear, in the economically poorest regions, least
developed countries, most fragile nations. These are the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations who continue to bear the heaviest burden of child deaths.
Perhaps that’s not surprising. But the fact that these deaths are increasingly concentrated in these regions of the world is critically important. According to UNICEF,
One in every nine children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before reaching the age of 5. And progress in lowering child mortality rates lags behind among disadvantaged and marginalized people, around the world. Undernutrition is a factor in one third of all under-5
If disease and undernutrition are to be tackled successfully, broader issues such as water supply, sanitation and hygiene and education will also have to be addressed.
It’s not only about tackling disease (which is more than enough on its own). It’s about addressing the intersection of many factors which contribute to poor health: the empowerment of women, proper infrastructure to deliver health care and supportive policies.
The progress the global community has made, however, should be at the forefront of this news. It’s what will continue to fuel the movement to save more lives. In June of this year, the
Child Survival, A Call to Action conference called on governments and partners to
sign a pledge to work towards reducing the number of children who die every year, further. Since then, more than half the world’s governments have pledged. The
Every Woman, Every Child “global movement” – a campaign to mobilize everyone from government leaders to the engaged public--is part of this push, as well, with a goal to save the lives and improve the health of
millions of women and children.
What can we take from this year’s report, then? The global community, including the countries which still suffer from the largest number of dying children, has managed to save the lives of millions of children under five. Even in sub-Saharan Africa and South
Asia the number of children dying has decreased since 1990. And we know there is immense power behind the effort to change things. To save the lives of those 19,000 children every day who continue to die from preventable diseases, we all need to support efforts
that ensure vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care.
There has never been a greater opportunity to end preventable deaths of children under five years old.
Want to help? You can take action to end preventable deaths of children under five years old
here. Or spread the word on Twitter using #Promise4Children.