Home NewsInternational Child mortality drops to 4.9 m in 2022 – UN report

Child mortality drops to 4.9 m in 2022 – UN report

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan

The number of children who died before their fifth birthday has reached a historic low, dropping to 4.9 million in 2022, according to a UN report.

The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) report was released on Wednesday.

According to it, despite progress, an estimated 4.9 million children died before their fifth birthday somewhere in the world, or 1 death every 6 seconds.

Mrs Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director, said that behind these numbers lie the stories of midwives and skilled health personnel helping mothers safely deliver their new-borns.

“Health workers vaccinating and protecting children against deadly diseases, and community health workers who make home visits to support families to ensure the right health and nutrition support for children.

“Through decades of commitment by individuals, communities, and nations to reach children with low-cost, quality, and effective health services, we’ve shown that we have the knowledge and tools to save lives,” Russell said.

The report revealed that more children are surviving today than ever before, with the global under-five mortality rate declining by 51 per cent since 2000.

It said that several low and lower middle-income countries have outpaced the decline, showing that progress was possible when resources are efficiently allocated to primary health care including child health and well-being.

According to it, for example, the findings show that Cambodia, Malawi, Mongolia, and Rwanda have reduced under-5 mortality by over 75 per cent since 2000.

It said that but the findings also show that despite the progress, there was still a long road ahead to end all preventable child and youth deaths.

“In addition to the 4.9 million lives lost before the age of 5, nearly half of which were new-borns, the lives of another 2.1 million children and youth aged 5-24 were also cut short.

“Most of these deaths were concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia,” it said.

The report said that the tragic loss of life was primarily due to preventable or treatable causes, such as preterm birth, complications around the time of birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria.

It said that many lives could have been saved with better access to high quality primary health care, including essential, low-cost interventions, such as vaccinations, availability of skilled health personnel at birth.

Others, it said are support for early and continued breastfeeding and diagnosis and treatment of childhood illnesses.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General said that while there has been welcome progress, every year millions of families still suffer the devastating heartbreak of losing a child, often in the very first days after birth.

“Where a child is born should not dictate whether they live or die. It is critical to improve access to quality health services for every woman and child, including during emergencies and in remote areas,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said that improving access to quality health services and saving children’s lives from preventable deaths requires investment in education, jobs, and decent working conditions for health workers to deliver primary health care, including community health workers.

WHO boss said that as trusted community members, community health workers played an important role in reaching children and families in every community with life-saving health services like vaccinations, testing and medicine for deadly yet treatable illnesses, and nutrition support.

According to him, they should be integrated into primary health care systems and paid fairly, well trained, and equipped with the means to provide the highest quality of care.

Ghebreyesus said that studies showed that child deaths in the highest-risk countries could drop substantially if community-based child survival interventions could reach those in need.

According to him, the package of interventions alone would save millions of children and would deliver care closer to home.

“Integrated management of childhood illnesses, especially the leading causes of post-neonatal death, acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and malaria, is needed to improve child health and survival,” he said.

Dr Juan Uribe, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, World Bank and Director, Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents said that the year’s report was an important milestone showing that less children die before their fifth birthday.

“But this is simply not enough. We need to accelerate progress with more investments, collaboration and focus to end preventable child deaths and honour our global commitment.

“We owe it to all children to ensure they have access to the same health care and opportunities, regardless of where they are born,” Uribe said.

He said that while the global numbers showed welcome signs of progress, there are also substantive threats and inequities that jeopardize child survival in many parts of the world.

“These threats include increasing inequity and economic instability, new and protracted conflicts, the intensifying impact of climate change, and the fallout of COVID-19, which could lead to stagnation or even reversal of gains and the continued needless loss of children’s lives.

“Children born into the poorest households are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 compared to the wealthiest households, while children living in fragile or conflict-affected settings are almost three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children elsewhere,” he said.

Mr Li Junhua, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs said that the new estimates showed that strengthening access to high-quality health care, especially around the time of birth, helps to reduce mortality among children under age 5.

“While the milestones in the reduction of child mortality are important to track progress, they should also remind us that further efforts and investments are needed to reduce inequities and end preventable deaths among new-borns, children and youth worldwide,” Junhua said.

The report said that at current rates, 59 countries would miss the SDG under five mortality target, and 64 countries would fall short of the new-born mortality goal.

According to it, that means an estimated 35 million children will die before reaching their fifth birthday by 2030, a death toll that will largely be borne by families in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia or in low and lower middle-income countries.

The report also noted large gaps in data, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where the mortality burden was high.

“Data and statistical systems must be improved to better track and monitor child survival and health, including indicators on mortality and health via household surveys, birth and death registration through Health Management Information Systems (HMIS), and Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS),” it said.

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