Africa, South Asia lag in boost to global child health

September 13, 2012 6:20 am
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South Asia accounts for about a third of total under-five deaths each year/AFP-File
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 – The global mortality rate for young children has been nearly halved in the past two decades, but Africa and South Asia have not kept pace, the United Nations said on Thursday.

The number of infants and children who die before reaching the age of five has dropped from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011, according to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

The number of lives saved has sped up over the past decade.

However, “any satisfaction at these gains is tempered by the unfinished business that remains,” said UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake. Some 19,000 children are still dying each day from largely preventable diseases.

The geographic and social disparity also worries UN experts, who called for devoting more resources to at-risk regions and boosting investment in maternal and child health, along with education for girls.

The biggest improvement in child health has been recorded in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. These regions have cut the child death rate by half since 1990.

Sub-Saharan Africa has only cut its death rate by 39 percent, and accounts for nearly half the deaths each year.

Under-five deaths are now increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which now account for 80 percent of the world total, said the UNICEF report, titled “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed.”

Sub-Saharan Africa has only cut its death rate by 39 percent, and accounts for nearly half the deaths each year. One child in nine in the poorest African region still fails to live past his or her fifth birthday.

In eastern and southern Africa, deaths have been cut through “massive” investment in fighting AIDS, measles and malaria, said the report.

South Asia accounts for about a third of total under-five deaths each year.

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