Unicef reveals child death rates
Death rates for children under five have halved in some regions since 1990, but about 6.6 million still are thought to have died last year, according to a new report issued by Unicef.
The UN children's agency says the highest death rates are in Africa and Asia and nearly half of all children who die are in five countries: Nigeria, Congo, India, Pakistan and China. In West and Central Africa, there has been virtually no change in the number of children who die every year since 1990. The UN says the top killers are pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
Solid numbers were only available from about half of the world's countries and experts used modelling techniques to estimate the number of deaths worldwide.
"Progress can and must be made," said Anthony Lake, Unicef's executive director. "When concerted action, sound strategies, adequate resources and strong political will are harnessed in support of child and maternal survival, dramatic reductions in child mortality aren't just feasible, they are morally imperative."
Malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea take the lives of about 6,000 children under five daily. A lack of nutrition contributes to almost half of these deaths, the UN said.
Eastern and Southern Africa have reduced their death rates for children under five by more than 50% since 1990. West and Central Africa are the only regions not to have at least halved the number of children under five dying over the past 22 years, the UN said.
Nigeria bears more than 30% of early childhood deaths for malaria and 20% of the deaths associated with HIV. Globally, the country accounts for one in every eight child deaths, the UN said.
While these numbers are grim, the rate of improvement globally seems to have plateaued at about 4% improvement per year since 2005, the report said.
Countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Brazil showed tremendous progress, due in part to increased community health care. Affordable and increased interventions - like treated mosquito nets, medicines, rehydration treatments and improved access to safe water - helped improve the early childhood death rate in other countries as well.
But improvements were not as bold in countries like Nigeria, Congo, Sierra Leone and Pakistan, the report showed.