Child mortality rates drop to 9.7 mn from 10 mn in 2006: UNICEF

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New Delhi, Jan 22 (UNI) As many as 9.7 million children below the age of five died from preventable diseases worldwide in 2006, showing a slight decline in the number of childhood deaths, the U N Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

Reiterating concern that these deaths could easily have been prevented, a new UNICEF report on global child health released here today said for the first time since records began, the estimate of the absolute number of under-five deaths fell below 10 million to 9.7 million in 2006.

According to the report, the State of the World's Children 2008, South Asia, Africa and the Middle East were missing the avowed United Nations goal to bring down child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, to less than 5 million deaths a year.

In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, poverty and war were harming efforts to combat infant mortality. Globally, 62 countries were making little or insufficient progress towards a key 2015 child mortality target, it added.

Sierra Leone emerged at the bottom of the table recording 270 deaths below the age of five per 1,000 live births, in 2006. In comparison, three deaths per 1,000 were reported from the world's six best performers, including Sweden and Singapore.

Sub-Saharan Africa fared worst of the world's regions, accounting for 49 per cent of under-five deaths worldwide but only 22 per cent of births. Nearly half of the 46 sub-Saharan African countries have had either stable or worsening child mortality rates since 1990, and only Cape Verde, Eritrea and the Seychelles were attempting to reach the 2015 child survival goal.

Attempts to boost children's life expectancy in countries where HIV/AIDS were rampant were hit by weak governance and poor health systems, the report said.

Stating that attainment of the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) by 2015 of a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate "is still possible, but the challenge is formidable", the report noted that there had been a significant improvement in child survival, with a 60 per cent fall in child mortality rates since 1960.

More than 26,000 young children died every day of pneumonia, malaria and other preventable illnesses with four million dying in their first month of life.


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