A latest report by UN agencies warned yesterday that at current trends of child mortality, nearly 60 million children could die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half being newborns.
The report, Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017, was jointly released by the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, and the Population Division of UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Its statistics show that for every day in 2016, some 15,000 children died before their fifth birthday, including 7,000 babies who died in the first 28 days of life. Although the number of children who died before the age of five is at a new low, which stood about 5.6 million in 2016 compared with nearly 9.9 million in 2000, the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period has increased from 41 percent to 46 percent.
Pneumonia and diarrhea top the list of infectious diseases which claim the lives of millions of children under-five globally, while preterm birth complications and complications during labor or child birth caused 30 percent of newborn deaths in 2016. In addition to the 5.6 million under-five deaths, 2.6 million babies are stillborn each year, though the majority of which could be prevented.
“Unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required, we just need to take them where they are most needed,” said Unicef chief of health Stefan Swartling Peterson.
Existing data show that most newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, taking more than 75 percent of the total mortality when combined. The five countries that accounted for half of all new-born deaths were India (24 percent), Pakistan (10 percent), Nigeria (9 percent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4 percent) and Ethiopia (3 percent).
The report notes that if all countries had achieved the average mortality of high-income countries, 87 percent of under-five deaths could have been averted and almost 5 million lives could have been saved in 2016.
“It is unconscionable that in 2017, pregnancy and child birth are still life-threatening conditions for women, and that 7,000 newborns die daily,” said Tim Evans, senior director of Health Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.
“The best measure of success for universal health coverage is that every mother should not only be able to access health care easily, but that it should be quality, affordable care that will ensure a healthy and productive life for her children and family,” he added.
For the first time, the report also includes mortality data for older children aged five to 14, capturing other causes of death such as accidents and injuries. Approximately 1 million children aged five to 14 died in 2016, it says.