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UN: Under 5 Mortality Dropped To 4.9 Million

The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) revealed the global number of children who died before their fifth birthday has reached a historic low, dropping to 4.9 million in 2022.

This is according to the latest estimates released on Wednesday.

The global under-five mortality rate declined by 60 per cent, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 37 in 2022.

The UN report was contained in a statement issued by the World Bank, a copy of which was obtained by journalists in Abuja on Wednesday.

The statement said the report revealed that more children were surviving today than ever before, with the global under-five mortality rate declining by 51 per cent since 2000.

It said several low- and lower-middle-income countries had outpaced this decline, which showed that progress was possible when resources were sufficiently allocated to primary health care, including child health and well-being.

“For example, the findings show that Cambodia, Malawi, Mongolia, and Rwanda have reduced under-five mortality by over 75 per cent since 2000. But the findings also show that despite this progress, there is still a long road ahead to end all preventable child and youth deaths.

“In addition to the 4.9 million lives lost before the age of five, nearly half of which were newborns, the lives of another 2.1 million children and youth aged five to 24 were also cut short. Most of these deaths were concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.”

The report said the tragic loss of life is primarily due to preventable or treatable causes, such as preterm birth, complications around the time of birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria.

Many lives could have been saved with better access to high-quality primary health care, including essential, low-cost interventions such as vaccinations and the availability of skilled health personnel at birth.”

The statement quoted UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell as saying, “Behind these numbers lie the stories of midwives and skilled health personnel helping mothers safely deliver their newborns.

“Also, there are health workers vaccinating and protecting children against deadly diseases and community health workers who make home visits to support families to ensure the right health and nutrition support for children.

“Through decades of commitment by individuals, communities, and nations to reach children with low-cost, quality, and effective health services, we have shown that we have the knowledge and tools to save lives.”

Also, Director-General, World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, was quoted as saying, “While there has been welcome progress, every year millions of families still suffer the devastating heartbreak of losing a child, often in the very first days after birth. Where a child is born should not dictate whether they live or die.”

Mr Ghebreyesus said it was critical to improve access to quality health services for every woman and child, including during emergencies and in remote areas.

The statement said studies showed that child deaths in the highest-risk countries could drop substantially if community-based child survival interventions could reach those in need.

It said this package of interventions alone would save millions of children and deliver care closer to home.

“Integrated management of childhood illnesses, especially the leading causes of post-neonatal death, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and malaria, is needed to improve child health and survival.”

The statement quoted the Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank, and Director, Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents, Dr Juan Uribe, as saying, “This year’s report is an important milestone, showing that fewer children die before their fifth birthday. But this is simply not enough.

“We need to accelerate progress with more investments, collaboration, and focus to end preventable child deaths and honour our global commitment. We owe it to all children to ensure they have access to the same health care and opportunities, regardless of where they are born.”

It said that while the global numbers showed welcome signs of progress, there were also substantive threats and inequities that jeopardised child survival in many parts of the world.

The report said these threats include increasing inequity and economic instability, new and protracted conflicts, the intensifying impact of climate change, and the fallout of COVID-19.

“This could lead to stagnation or even reversal of gains and the continued needless loss of children’s lives.”

The statement said children born into the poorest households were twice as likely to die before the age of five compared to the wealthiest households.

“While children living in fragile or conflict-affected settings are almost three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children elsewhere.”

According to the statement, at current rates, 59 countries will miss the Sustainable Development Goals under-five mortality target, and 64 countries will fall short of the newborn mortality goal.

“That means an estimated 35 million children will die before reaching their fifth birthday by 2030. A death toll that will largely be borne by families in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia or in low- and lower-middle-income countries.”

The report also noted large gaps in data, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where the mortality burden was high and stated that data and statistical systems must be improved to better track and monitor child survival and health.