Southern and Eastern Africa making substantial progress in reducing child mortality
Officials making inroads in conquering preventable deaths from common diseases
UNICEF, the United Nation's Children Fund has announced that both southern and eastern Africa have made substantial strides in reducing child and infant mortality. The majority of child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and are from largely preventable, common diseases such as diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria.
Ethiopia's child mortality rates have halved in less than 10 years. With more children surviving, birth rates have also fallen.
"We are seeing very encouraging results in the poorest nations in the world and particularly in eastern Africa," UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe told a press conference.
Crowe was speaking ahead of a report entitled "Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed."
Ethiopia has reduced its under-five mortality rate by 67 percent, Tanzania by 68 percent and Malawi by 71 percent since 1990. These African nations have already achieved the fourth Millennium Development Goal of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.
Child survival rates have increased in the last 20 years. Under-five deaths have fallen by 47 percent from 12.6 million to 6.6 million between 1990 and 2012.
In spite of this substantial progress, the world is 13 years behind schedule on meeting the fourth Millennium Development Goal and 35 million more children whose lives could have been saved will die in the coming years.
Key steps have increased child survival rates. "Growth monitoring of children, oral re-hydration, breastfeeding and immunization - those four pillars are the gold standard of child rearing," Crowe says. "What we are seeing in countries that have very fast results is that they are focusing on those areas."
In spite of its limited resources, Ethiopia has emerged as one of the trailblazers in child survival rates. "Going there and seeing the progress is quite remarkable," Crowe says. "To see that a country has come that far, that quickly, shows that so many other countries can do the same."
The Ethiopian government has hired 38,000 health workers to bring services to remote areas,as the majority of Ethiopian mothers largely give birth to their children at home.
The biggest child killers, such as respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia are now being addressed with medical treatment.
"The government is quite clear that the right package of intervention needs to reach every village," Luwei Pearson, chief of health at UNICEF Ethiopia says.
"Immunization, treatment of pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria are available . in every village."
As a result, Ethiopia's child mortality rates have halved in less than 10 years. With more children surviving, birth rates have also fallen.
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