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Ranking reveals child health risks

Children are five times more likely to die in countries where there is a shortage of health workers, Save the Children has warned.

The charity has drawn up an index ranking the best and worst countries for a child to fall ill in - with Chad and Somalia at the bottom and Switzerland and Finland at the top.

Save the Children said children living in the bottom 20 countries - with just over two health workers for every 1,000 people - are five times more likely to die than those further up the index.

The UK ranks 14th overall, with Ireland third and other countries in the top 20 including Norway, Belarus and the United States. Among the bottom 20 are Lao People's Democratic Republic (Laos), Ethiopia and Nigeria.

The index includes 161 countries, and measures not only how many health workers there are but also their reach and impact. It also tracks the proportion of children who receive regular vaccinations and mothers who have access to life-saving emergency care at birth.

Released ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this month, the index highlights countries including Sierra Leone where millions of children could die because of a lack of trained health workers, Save the Children said.

The charity is highlighting a global shortage of more than 3.5 million doctors, nurses, midwives and community health workers which it said means vaccines cannot be administered, life-saving drugs cannot be prescribed and women cannot get expert care during childbirth.

It also means easily-treated illnesses, such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, can become deadly.

Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said: "A child's survival depends on where he or she is born in the world. No mother should have to watch helplessly as her child grows sick and dies, simply because there is no-one trained to help."

Save the Children called on governments, donors and partners to recruit more health workers with appropriate skills; make better use of existing workers to reach the most vulnerable children; make sure all health workers are paid a fair wage; and to deliver more funding for healthcare, and in a more effective way.

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