World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of deaths among children under the age of 5 has been on a significant decline for over two decades in Turkey as well as several other middle income countries, according to a report released Wednesday night by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
According to the 2012 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, low income countries such as Bangladesh, Liberia and Rwanda, middle income countries including Brazil, Mongolia and Turkey, and high income countries such as Oman and Portugal have made dramatic gains, lowering their under-5 mortality rates by more than two-thirds between 1990 and 2011.
According to data provided by the report, the number of children under the age of 5 dying globally has dropped from nearly 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.9 million in 2011. In 2010, there were 7.6 million under-5 deaths. However, around 19,000 boys and girls around the world are still dying every day from largely preventable causes, the report said.
UNICEF and partners place a heavy focus on preventable diseases. UNICEF Chief of Health Ian Pett said the fund is concentrating its energies much more on the countries where the biggest challenges remain. “We are focusing on the killers of children that haven't received enough attention yet,” Pett said when introducing the UNICEF report to the international media. Those killers include pneumonia, which is responsible for 18 percent of deaths of children under 5, and diarrhea, which is responsible for 11 percent.
The report underscores that a country's location and economic status need not be a barrier to reducing child deaths.
According to the report, four-fifths of under-5 deaths in 2011 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. More than half the pneumonia and diarrhea deaths occur in just four countries: Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
"Given the prospect that these regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa, will account for the bulk of the world's births in the next years, we must give new impetus to the global momentum to reduce under-5 deaths," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in the report. Lake also said youngsters from disadvantaged and marginalized families in poor and fragile nations are the most likely to die before their fifth birthday. “But their lives can be saved with vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care,” he added.
UNICEF said the rate of decline in under-5 deaths has drastically accelerated in the last decade, from 1.8 percent per year during the 1990s to 3.2 percent per year between 2000 and 2011. “There is much to celebrate,” Lake said. “More children now survive their fifth birthday than ever before -- the global number of under-5 deaths has fallen from around 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.9 million in 2011.”
But UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta stressed that there is “unfinished business” and that it is not just about the number of child deaths.