NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – A new global update on the Millennium Development Goals indicates that about 40 percent of deaths in children under five years of age occurred in the first month of life.
The update released in the World Health Statistics 2010 showed that globally, most of these deaths occurred in the first week of life.
Director of Public Health Dr Shahnaaz Shariff told Capital News that in Kenya, diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and neonatal infections were the major causes of deaths in children under five years.
“If you look at the results of the 2008 Kenya Demographic Health Survey and compare it with the results of 2003, you find that we have managed to reduce mortality in children under five but those neonatal deaths – those occurring immediately after birth within the first one week – we have not been able to reduce them and that is our major challenge,” he said.
He said that these neonatal deaths were related to pregnancy complications.
Dr Shariff said six-month exclusive breastfeeding reduced the instances of diarrhoea in infants and therefore reduced child mortality deaths related to the disease.
The report said that improving newborn care in the first month of life was essential for reducing child deaths in developing countries.
The report also showed that deaths among children under five had dropped by 30 percent from 12.5 million in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008.
A statement posted on the World Health Organisation website states that with five years remaining to the MDG deadline in 2015 there were some striking improvements in some health MDG’s.
“The percentage of underweight children is estimated to have declined from 25 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2010, HIV infections dropped 16 percent between 2001 and 2008 and the percentage of the world’s population with access to safe water has increased from 77 percent to 87 percent, enough to reach the MDG target,” the statement said.
The Director of WHO’s Department of Health Statistics and Informatics Ties Boerma was quoted as saying that the global results masked inequalities between countries and regions.
“Some countries have been held back by conflict, poor governance, or humanitarian and economic crises. But several low-income countries have made substantial progress in reducing child mortality, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Rwanda," he said.
“The challenge is also to assist countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South-East Asia to get access to interventions such as insecticide-treated bed nets to prevent malaria. Under nutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths,” he said.
World Health Statistics 2010 is an annual report based on more than 100 health indicators reported by WHO’s 193 Member States.