By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: An estimated 6.3 million children under 15 years of age died in 2017,or one in every 5 seconds, mostly of preventable causes while India has done remarkably well in reducing the child mortality rate. This was revealed in a new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group simultaneously in New York, : Geneva, and Washington D.C on Tuesday. It warned that if urgent action were not taken, 56 million children under five will die by 2030.
According to the report, the vast majority of these deaths –5.4 million – occur in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths.
It noted that India made impressive gains in reduction of child deaths with under-five deaths in India falling below the one million mark for the first time.
Dr. Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF India Representative said, “India continues to show impressive decline in child deaths, with its share of global under-five deaths for the first time equaling its share of childbirths.
Commenting on the report, Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy said “Without urgent action, 56 million children under five will die from now until 2030– half of them newborns.”
We have made remarkable progress to save children since 1990, but millions are still dying because of who they are and where they are born and with simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines, we can change that reality for every child, he added.
Globally, in 2017, half of all deaths under five years of age took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 per cent in Southern Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 children died before their fifth birthday.In high-income countries, that number was 1in 185.
“Millions of babies and children should not still be dying every year from lack of access to water, sanitation, proper nutrition or basic health services,” said Dr. Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children’s Health at WHO. “We must prioritize providing universal access to quality health services for every child, particularly around the time of birth and through the early years, to give them the best possible chance to survive and thrive.”
Most children under 5 die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis and malaria. By comparison, among children between 5 and 14 years of age, injuries become a more prominent cause of death, especially from drowning and road traffic. Within this age group, regional differences also exist, with the risk of dying for a child from sub-Saharan Africa 15 times higher than in Europe.
For children everywhere, the most risky period of life is the first month. In 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month. A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country. And progress towards saving newborns has been slower than for other children under five years of age since 1990.
Even within countries, disparities persist. Under-five mortality rates among children in rural areas are, on average, 50 per cent higher than among children in urban areas.In addition, those born to uneducated mothers are more than twice as likely to die before turning five than those born to mothers with a secondary or higher education.
Despite these challenges, fewer children are dying each year worldwide. The number of children dying under five has fallen dramatically from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.4 million in 2017. The number of deaths in older children aged between 5 to 14 years dropped from 1.7 million to under a million in the same period.
“This new report highlights the remarkable progress since 1990 in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin.“Reducing inequalitybyassisting the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers is essential for achieving the target of the Sustainable Development Goals on ending preventable childhood deaths and for ensuring that no one is left behind.”
As far as India is concerned, which has high mortality rate, the report noted that India continues to show impressive gains in reduction of child deaths with under-five deaths in India falling below the one million mark for the first time as per the latest UN estimates.
India’s share of global child deaths continues to steadily reduce, declining from nearly 22 percent in 2012 to 18 percent in 2017, which is now for the first time equal to its share of the total global births. (India accounts for 18 percent of global births and now also 18 percent of global child deaths)
The under-five mortality rate of India at 39 per 1000 now equals that of the world, highlighting the much faster decline by India in the last five years as compared to the global decline. (Under-five mortality of India: 39 per 1000 and global also is 39 per 1000)
The share of neonatal to under-five mortality continues to increase due to faster decline in post neonatal deaths, with newborn deaths now contributing to62 percent of under-five deaths, calling for greater investments in care before and during pregnancy, and in the period around child birth.
Speaking on this occasion, Dr. Yasmeen Haque, UNICEF India Representative said the efforts for improving institutional delivery, along with countrywide scale up of special newborn care units and strengthening of routine immunization have been instrumental towards this.
Even more heartening is the fourfold decline in the gender gap in survival of the girl child over last five years, she added.
“The investment on ensuring holistic nutrition under POSHANAbhiyan (National Nutrition Mission) and the national commitment to make India open defecation free by 2019, are steps that will help to accelerate progress further.”
It is to mention here that the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation or UN IGME was formed in 2004 to share data on child mortality, harmonise estimates within the United Nations system, improve methods for child mortality estimation, report on progress towards child survival goals and enhance country capacity to produce timely and properly assessed estimates of child mortality.
For more information visit: http://www.childmortality.org/