This year’s State of the World’s Mothers Report examines the latest data and trends in the field of child survival and presents a compelling case for why the world must do more to prevent death among children under age 5.
The report includes the first-ever Child Survival Progress Rankings that look at 60 developing countries, which together account for 94 percent of all child deaths, showing which countries are succeeding?and which are failing?to save the lives of children under the age of 5.
Among the report’s major findings on child survival:
*The three biggest killers of children under 5 worldwide are newborn disorders, pneumonia and diarrhea. By using existing interventions, the report notes, we can save more than 6 million of the 10.1 million children who die every year from easily preventable or treatable causes.
*Child and maternal death rates are highest in the poorest, most disadvantaged places. According to the report, nearly all under-5 and maternal deaths (99 percent) occur in developing countries in settings of poverty, where children are most vulnerable to diseases and malnutrition. The highest rates are in Africa and South Asia.
*The majority of child deaths occur in just 10 countries, many with large populations (such as China and India) and others with very high child mortality rates (such as Afghanistan, Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo). AIDS remains one of the underlying causes affecting child mortality trends, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Other key factors behind spiking child mortality rates, as in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, are the effects of armed conflict and social instability.
To succeed in saving the lives of children under 5, Save the Children recommends that countries:
*Ensure the well-being of mothers. Three key interventions that help both mothers and children to survive and thrive are nutrition, skilled care during childbirth and access to voluntary contraception.
*Invest in basic, low-cost solutions to save children’s lives. The most dangerous threats to children’s survival can be fought with relatively simple and inexpensive solutions. Breastfeeding provides nutrition and improves immunity to often life-threatening illnesses common to infants. Immunisations protect children from measles and other diseases. Oral rehydration therapy can save a child from dying of dehydrating diarrhea. Antibiotics treat pneumonia. Insecticide-treated mosquito nets help prevent malaria.
*Make health care available to the poorest and most vulnerable mothers and children. Childbirth can be made much safer if mothers and newborns receive care from trained health workers before, during and after delivery. In remote, hard-to-reach communities, diarrhea and many cases of pneumonia can be treated by training community-based health workers close to where children live.