Child Deaths Drop Worldwide, Slow Progress on Maternal Mortality, Newborn Death MDGs, Report Says
The number of worldwide deaths among children younger than age five has fallen by 27% since 1990, but there has been little progress in reducing maternal mortality and newborn deaths, according to the World Health Statistics 2009 report, which was released on Thursday, Reuters reports (Reid, Reuters, 5/21).
The annual report is based on more than 100 health indicators from WHO's 193 member states (WHO release, 5/21). The focus of this year's report is on progress toward achieving the eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include cutting child and maternal mortality (Schlein, VOA News, 5/21).
About nine million children younger than age five died in 2007 compared with 12.5 million deaths in 1990, which is significantly short of the MDG target of cutting infant deaths by two-thirds by 2015 (AFP/Google.com, 5/21). Increasingly, lowering child mortality depends on "tackling neonatal mortality," the WHO said, adding that an estimated 37% of global deaths among children younger than age five occurs in the "first month of life, most in the first week." Most maternal deaths occur in Africa, where the maternal mortality ratio in 2005 was 900 per 100,000 live births more than double the global rate of 400 per 100,000. Ties Boerma, director of the WHO's department of health statistics, said, "Maternal mortality is stuck at what it was in 1990" (Reuters, 5/21).
Boerma said, "The decline in the death toll of children under five illustrates what can be achieved by strengthening health systems and scaling up interventions, such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria and oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea, increased access to vaccines and improved water and sanitation in developing countries" (U.N. News Service, 5/21).
According to the WHO, countries with high levels of AIDS, economic hardship and violence made the least progress. Afghanistan, Nigeria and Sierra Leone were among the worst for both maternal and child health, the report said (Reuters, 5/21).
"Usually there are very weak institutions in many of these countries. Many of them are emerging from conflicts," Carla Abou-Zahr, a coordinator in the WHO's department of health statistics, said, adding that "sub-Saharan Africa in particular, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa are facing major problems of HIV, which has had a huge impact on especially child mortality, life expectancy in general." However not all countries in Africa present a bleak picture improvement can be seen in places such as Tanzania and Rwanda, Abou-Zahr said (VOA News, 5/21).
"There needs to be more effort to strengthen health systems in countries affected by high levels of HIV/AIDS, economic hardship or conflict. Moreover, there is a need to pay greater attention to the poorest groups within countries where progress is often the slowest and child mortality rates remain high," Boerma said (Xinhua, 5/21).
According to Boerma, per-capita health expenditure in low income countries is at about $22 per capita, but in "high-income countries, it is $4,012" and in Africa, "there are two doctors for 10,000 people," compared with "32 doctors for 10,000 people" in the European region (VOA News, 5/21).
The WHO published a fact sheet that includes updates about the progress on several MDGs and other key statistics.
In related news the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child-Health a consortium of U.N., private aid and financial organizations are highlighting the need for investment in maternal and child health in Asia and the Pacific, VOA News reports. Although the region is often associated with development and economic growth, it accounts for more than 40% of the global mortality in maternal, child and newborn health, according to Ian Pett, UNICEF's chief of health systems and strategic planning. The article examined the Partnership's goals and includes information from recent studies (Schlein, VOA News , 5/21).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.