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Urgent Improvements In Child Health Care Needed

Urgent Improvements In Health Care Needed To Combat Child Deaths, Says Unicef

New York, Sep 18 2006 8:00PM

Releasing a new study today showing that around 29,000 children under five years old die around the world every day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for stronger health services in countries with high child mortality and increased Government and donor support for child survival.

The call was backed by a meeting of political and health experts in New York, organized jointly by the Norwegian Government, the Lancet medical journal and UNICEF, focusing on ways to prevent the deaths of millions of children before their fifth birthday, and the head of the Fund said lessons should be learnt from countries™ success stories.

“Dramatic gains in child survival within some countries point the way toward successful strategies that can work on a broader scale,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “Such strategies include integrated, community-based approaches that address maternal and child health, nutrition, AIDS prevention and water and sanitῡtion.

However panellists at today’s meeting also highlighted the fact that few of the countries with high child mortality levels are on track to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 – the fourth of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a list of targets aimed at reducing poverty and other social ills.

Around 29,000 children under the age of five die each day and most of these deaths are preventable. Pneumonia alone kills more children under five than any other disease according to a UNICEF/World Health Organization (WHO) report launched today – two million children under five each year – more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

UNICEF and its partners have carried out a focused assessment of key maternal, neonatal and child survival indicators across the 60 countries with high child mortality, and this was also published today in a special issue of the Lancet. These countries account for 94 per cent of all under-five deaths worldwide.

The majority have made little or no progress on child mortality, while 14 countries saw child mortality rates increase between 1990 and 2004. But the assessment also finds success stories, with seven countries set to reach the 2015 goal, including Bangladesh and the Philippines, and it is from these that lessons should be drawn, Ms. Veneman said.

Global health partnerships such as the Measles Initiative have already helped to halve measles-related deaths in the past five years, UNICEF noted in a press release, while the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign is mobilizing resources for women and children living with HIV/AIDS.

Ends

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