UNICEF has today released its annual global report on child mortality, showing preventable child deaths have halved, dropping from 12.7 million to 6.3 million in the last quarter century.
The 2014 Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed progress report indicated the first 28 days of a newborn’s life were the most vulnerable with almost 2.8 million babies dying each year during this period. One million babies don’t survive the first day.
UNICEF Australia Chief Executive Norman Gillespie said many children’s deaths could be easily prevented with the scaling up of simple, cost-effective interventions before, during and immediately after birth.
However, analysis points to failures in health systems during the critical time of birth as a significant contributing factor to unnecessary deaths. It also shows there is considerable variation – from country to country and between rich and poor – in the take-up and quality of health services available to pregnant women and their babies.
Poverty and a related inequality in health care provision are contributing factors to deaths in children under the age of five, but UNICEF data suggests investment in good quality health care has reduced the equity gap in every region, except sub-Saharan Africa, with the poorest of developing countries registering greater absolute gains in child survival than their wealthier compatriots.
“The data clearly demonstrates that an infant’s chances of survival increase dramatically when their mother has sustained access to good quality health care during pregnancy and delivery,” Dr Gillespie said of the report.
“We need to make sure these services, where they exist, are used and that every contact between a mother and her health worker really counts,” he said.
“It is deeply heartening that the equity gap in child survival is continuing to narrow. We need to harness this momentum and use it to drive forward programs that focus resources on the poorest and marginalised households; a strategy which has the potential to save the largest number of children’s lives.”