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Child mortality fell fastest in 2011, but is it enough?

Last night, the new child mortality statistics for 2011 were released by UNICEF. In 1990, 12 million children under five died. In 2010, it was down to 7.6 million.

The big news is that, in 2011, it fell to 6.9 million. This is the largest fall in any year since we’ve been counting the data. It shows that national and international action is working but there is a lot more to do if there is any chance of meeting child survival targets.

The new figures from the Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation Group show that there’s been a reduction from 87 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 51 per 1,000 in 2011. Although this means 14,000 fewer deaths every day, it still leaves 19,000 under-fives dying every single day in 2011.

Although progress is speeding up, and the fastest rates of reduction are in sub-Saharan Africa, progress is not fast enough to achieve the Millennium Development Goal for child mortality, the commitment that the world’s leaders made in 2000.

Aid works

The reason for the reductions are varied. In some countries, particularly in Asia, it is the economic development that has improved living standards, nutrition and access to healthcare.

In other parts, it is action that even very low-income governments have taken when citizens insist that high rates of child mortality are unacceptable.

In other countries, it reflects strategic use of aid from donor countries, used to support access to the basic health services which prevent deaths. British aid is playing a key part, supporting some of the poorest countries to sort out their health services.

Ending child mortality

There is still a long way to go to end preventable child deaths. Progress is not equal in all sections of society; in some countries that are doing well on their national average, mortality among the poor has stayed the same or even got worse.

Too many children are badly malnourished and cannot fight off simple diseases. Deaths among children are falling faster than more vulnerable newborns.

Many children don’t get the basic healthcare they need, either because it’s not there or it’s only available for those with money. However, the progress in 2011 shows that it can be done.

Save the Children is calling on the new International Development Secretary, Justine Greening MP, to make a commitment that the UK government will champion an increased drive to end child mortality.

She has commmitted that the UK will stick to its aid target. It needs to make sure that its attention and support is devoted to ending the injustice that so many children die simply because they’re denied their right to nutrition and healthcare.


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