September 16, 2014
This post originally appeared on UNICEF’s website here.
NEW YORK, 16 September 2014 – Child survival rates have increased dramatically since 1990, during which time the absolute number of under-five deaths has been slashed in half from 12.7 million to 6.3 million, according to a report released today by UNICEF.
The 2014 Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed progress report, indicates that the first 28 days of a newborn’s life are the most vulnerable with almost 2.8 million babies dying each year during this period. One million of them don’t even live to see their second day of life.
Many of these deaths could be easily prevented with simple, cost-effective interventions before, during and immediately after birth.
Analysis points to failures in the health system during the critical time around delivery as a significant contributing factor to these unnecessary deaths. It also shows that there is considerable variation – from country to country and between rich and poor – in the take-up and quality of health services available to pregnant women and their babies.
Key findings in this study include:
Additionally, the report shows that the education level and age of the mother has a significant bearing on the chances of her baby’s survival. Neonatal mortality rates among mothers with no education are nearly twice as high for those with secondary schooling and above.
“The data clearly demonstrate that an infant’s chances of survival increase dramatically when their mother has sustained access to quality health care during pregnancy and delivery,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director. “We need to make sure that these services, where they exist, are fully utilised and that every contact between a mother and her health worker really counts. Special efforts must also be made to ensure that the most vulnerable are reached.”
Inequality, particularly in health care access, remains high in the least developed countries: women from the richest households are almost three times as likely as those from the poorest to deliver their baby with a skilled birth attendant. Despite this, the report suggests that the equity gap in under-5 child mortality is steadily reducing. In every region, except sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of under-five mortality among the poorest sections of society is declining faster than in the richest. More significantly, worldwide, the poor are registering greater absolute gains in child survival than their wealthier compatriots.
“It is deeply heartening that the equity gap in child survival is continuing to narrow,” said Rao Gupta. “We need to harness this momentum and use it to drive forward programmes that focus resources on the poorest and marginalised households; a strategy which has the potential to save the largest number of children’s lives.”