One child under 15 years of age dies every five seconds globally, while children from Nigeria and other sub-Sahara African countries are 60 times more likely to die in their first five years than Europe and North American peers.
New mortality estimates released yesterday by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group, showed that an estimated 6.3 million children under 15 years died in 2017.
This translates to one death every five seconds, mostly from preventable and treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis and malaria.
The report noted that most of the 5.4 million deaths occur in the first five years, with newborns accounting for about half the number.
It noted that last year, half of all deaths of children under five years occurred in sub-Sahara Africa, while 30 per cent took place in Southern Asia. In sub-Sahara Africa, one in 13 children died before their fifth birthday, as one in 185 dies in high-income countries.
It revealed that for children everywhere, the first month constitutes the most risky period of life, adding that in 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month. A baby born in sub-Sahara Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country.
Progress towards saving newborns has been slower than for other children under five years of age since 1990.
The report further showed that disparities persist even within countries and that under five mortality rate among children in rural areas are, on the average, 50 per cent higher than among children in urban areas.
In addition, those born by uneducated mothers are more than twice as likely to die before five years than those born by those with secondary or higher education.
According to WHO, in spite of these challenges, fewer children are dying each year globally, while the number of children dying under five years has reduced from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.4 million in 2017. The number of deaths in children aged between five to 14 years dropped from 1.7 million to under a million during the same period.
UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy, Laurence Chandy, said: “Without urgent action, 56 million children under five will die between now and 2030, half of them newborns.”
WHO’s Assistant Director General for Family, Women and Children’s Health, Dr. Princess Nono Simelela, said: “Millions of children should not still be dying yearly from lack of access to water, sanitation, proper nutrition or basic health services.
“We must prioritize providing universal access to quality health services for every child, particularly around the time of birth and through the early years, to give them the best possible chance to survive and thrive.”
Senior Director and Head of Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank, Timothy Evans, said: “More than six million children dying before their fifteenth birthday is a cost we simply can’t afford.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, said: “This new report highlights the remarkable progress since 1990 in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents.”