Disease interventions, such as the use of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria and increased access to HIV treatment and prevention, have helped reduce the number of deaths among children younger than age five worldwide to 9.2 million in 2007, down from 9.7 million in 2006 and 12.7 million in 1990, according to a UNICEF report published Friday in the journal Lancet, Reuters reports (Kahn, Reuters, 9/12). Although deaths among children younger than age five have declined by more than 50% since 1990 in East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Central and Eastern Europe, progress remains "grossly insufficient," particularly in much of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the report said (BBC News, 9/12).

Although countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique and Niger have made progress in reducing child mortality rates, HIV/AIDS remains a major cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said. Nearly half of the 9.2 million deaths among children younger than age five occurred in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report (Reuters, 9/12). The report noted that deaths from AIDS-related causes have declined among children younger than age five in Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland (BBC News, 9/12).

In 2007, the worldwide mortality rate for children younger than age five was 68 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 72 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006 and 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 (Reuters, 9/12). In industrialized nations, the mortality rate for children younger than age five was six deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007, compared with 147 deaths per 1,000 live births in sub-Saharan Africa and 78 deaths per 1,000 live births in South Asia (AFP/Yahoo! News, 9/11). Sierra Leone had the highest child mortality rate worldwide in 2007, with 262 deaths for every 1,000 children younger than age five. UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman noted that the mortality rate among children younger than age five has declined by more than 60% worldwide since 1960 and that "new data shows that downward trend continues."

According to UNICEF, improved HIV prevention likely will increase survival rates among young children. In addition, Veneman said that improvements in many basic health interventions -- such as ITN use, immunizations, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention -- are "encouraging" and likely will lead to additional declines in child mortality in the coming years (BBC News, 9/12).

The report is available online (.pdf).

Reprinted with kind permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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