“In mid-September a joint group from UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division, released the mortality figures for 2008 of children under five. The central statistic was that last year 65 children out of every thousand died before the age of five. That translates to 8.8 million children.
Although 8.8 million children is an enormous figure, there is some consolation in the knowledge that there could have been many more. In 1990, for example, the global child mortality rate was 90 deaths per 1000 live births or 12.5 million children. Comparing the two figures we see that today 10,000 fewer children die every day than did nearly 20 years ago. Still, it is frustrating to know how easily preventable most of those 8.8 million deaths were.
While the child mortality figures are believed to be the lowest in world history, it is feared that next year's figures will tell a horrifying story. Food and fuel prices have backed off but remain high, and the full impact of the global financial crisis is yet to be felt. With poverty and health so inextricably linked, there are obvious grounds for fear.
But amidst the speculation, simple, low-cost measures like vaccines, insecticide-treated mosquito nets and Vitamin A supplementation continue to show just how easily preventable many, if not most, child deaths can be.
Countries like Malawi are a perfect example. In 1990, Malawi had an extremely high under five child mortality rate of 225 deaths per 1000 live births. That rate has now dropped significantly to 100 per 1000.
Correlative to those figures is the knowledge that in 2000 only three per cent of Malawi's children aged under five slept under a mosquito net — a key means of preventing malaria. By 2006 that had increased to 25 per cent. With limited resources, Malawi focused on a simple intervention that saved countless children's lives.
As expected, Australia's under five child mortality rate is among the lowest in the world at 5.8 deaths per 1000 live births (Save the Children figures show the indigenous rate at 12.5 deaths for every 1000 live births).”
Eureka Street “Child Mortality Breakthroughs” Matthew Smeal, October 21, 2009
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