Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

UN report warns 48 million children younger than 5 will die in next decade

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest mortality rate for that age group in the world

A nurse bottle feeds a premature baby at a maternity hospital in Idlib, Syria. Reuters
A nurse bottle feeds a premature baby at a maternity hospital in Idlib, Syria. Reuters

The UN said urgent action was needed after its latest child mortality report revealed 48 million children under the age of 5 will die in the next decade.

The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation said 122 countries had death rates for children under 5 that were below the Sustainable Development Goal of 25 or fewer for every 1,000 live births last year.

But its report, which was published on Wednesday, revealed more work was needed for the remaining 73 countries.

Of them, 53 must must speed up progress to reach the target by 2030, and more than 60 will need to do so to reach the UN's neo-natal mortality goal on time.

The persistent and overwhelming burden of deaths among children and youths highlights the urgent need to further accelerate progress in preventing child deaths

Report

"If all countries reach the SDG child survival targets by 2030, 11 million lives under the age of 5 will be saved, more than half of them in sub-Saharan Africa," it said.

"On current trends, about 48 million children under 5 will die between 2020 and 2030, half of them newborns."

The UN agency was formed in 2004 to share data on child mortality to help improve methods for estimating the number of deaths and report on progress towards the goals.

"Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest under-5 mortality rate in the world," it said.

"In 2019, the region had an average under-5 mortality rate of 76 deaths for every 1,000 live births. That is equal to one child in 13 dying before reaching age 5."

It says the rate is 20 times higher than that of one in 264 for Australasia and two decades behind the world average, which achieved a one in 13 rate by 1999.

"The persistent and overwhelming burden of deaths among children and youths highlights the urgent need to further accelerate progress in preventing child deaths," the UN agency said.

"Current trends predict that close to 23 million five-to-24-year-olds and 48 million children under 5 years of age will die between 2020 and 2030.

"Almost half of these under-5 deaths will be newborns whose deaths can be prevented by reaching high coverage of quality antenatal care, skilled care at birth, postnatal care for mother and baby, and care of small and sick newborns."

It said most deaths of children younger than 5 were in two regions, with 53 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.5 million children in Central and Southern Asia.

"These two regions accounted for more than 80 per cent of the 5.2 million global under-5 deaths in 2019, but they only accounted for 52 per cent of the global under-5 population," it said.

"Nearly half of all under-5 deaths in 2019 occurred in just five countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia.

"Nigeria and India alone account for almost a third.

"Access to lifesaving interventions is critical to ensuring steady mortality declines in low and middle-income countries."

Globally, infectious diseases including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria remain a leading cause of under-5 deaths, along with early labour and birth complications.

It said malnourished children, particularly those suffering severe acute malnutrition, are at a higher risk of death from these common childhood illnesses.

"Access to basic lifesaving interventions such as childbirth delivery care, postnatal care, vaccinations, and early childhood preventive and curative services to address these causes is critical," the report said.

The UN agency is led by Unicef and includes the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the UN Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as full members.

Updated: September 9, 2020 09:41 AM

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