India, China must improve child survival to achieve MDGs:UNICEF

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New Delhi, Aug 6 (UNI) The UNICEF has warned that global efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals would fail unless India achieves major improvements in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, gender equality and child protection.

UNICEF has revealed this 'fundamental truth' in this year's State of Asia-Pacific's Children 2008 which examines the latest trends in child and maternal health.

According to the report, India and China hold the key to world meeting MDGs. It said the global achievement of the health related MDGs, depends largely on India's success and on China accelerating progress even further while China needs to make significant strides to regain early progress it made in child survival.

In 2006 2.5 million child deaths occurred in these two countries accounting for nearly a third of all child deaths with India having child mortality of 2.1 million and China 415,000, UNICEF pointed out.

However the region's robust economic growth, the fastest in the world since 1990, has lifted millions out of poverty. Child survival, regarded by UNICEF as a key test of a nation's progress in human development and child rights, has improved considerably. But gains have been overshadowed by deepening disparities, which means health care often fails to reach the poorest. This is a region with half of the world's children, spanning 37 countries and two hemispheres, it pointed out.

The report underscores a disturbing trend across the region that public health expenditure remains well below the world average on 5.1 per cent, with South Asia spending only 1.1 per cent of GDP and 1.9 per cent being spent in the rest of Asia-Pacific. In addition, as more services within countries are privatised and the government share of health budgets diminishes, public facilities become more run down and health workers leave for better paid jobs in the private sector or outside the country.

"The divide between rich and poor is rising at a troubling rate within subregions of Asia-Pacific, leaving vast numbers of mothers and children at risk of increasing relative poverty and continued exclusion from quality primary health-care services," the report says.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition are the major causes of child death in the region. But vast inequities in income, geography, gender and ethnicity are essentially what stand in the way of children surviving and thriving.

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