By Collins Orono
The global under-five mortality rate declined by 59 per cent, from 12.5 Million in 1990 to 5.2 million in 2019, according to new mortality estimates released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the World Bank Group.
Despite this considerable progress, improving child survival remains a matter of urgent concern. In 2019 alone, roughly 14,000 under-five deaths occurred every day, an intolerably high number of largely preventable child deaths.
Approximately 82 per cent of all under-five deaths in the world in 2019 occurred in just two regions: sub-Saharan Africa (53 per cent) and South Asia (27 per cent).
UN Agencies have warned that the gains made in eliminating preventable child deaths around the world in the last decades were being threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic
According to the surveys by Unicef and WHO the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in major disruptions to health services that threaten to undo decades of hard-won progress.
The report further predicts that close to 23 million five to 24-year-olds and 48 million children under five will die between 2020 and 2030.
Almost half of these under-five deaths will be newborns, the report says.
“The fact that today more children live to see their first birthday than any time in history is a true mark of what can be achieved when the world puts health and well-being at the centre of our response,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
He added that disruption to immunization programmes from the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to reverse decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.
Despite strong advances in fighting childhood illnesses, infectious diseases, which disproportionately affect children in poorer settings, remain highly prevalent, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, infectious diseases, including pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, remain a leading cause of under-five deaths, along with preterm birth and intrapartum-related complications.
Malnourished children, particularly those suffering from severe acute malnutrition, are at a higher risk of death from these common childhood illnesses. Access to life saving interventions is critical to ensuring steady mortality declines in low- and middle-income countries.