Child deaths have fallen rapidly since 1990 but not enough

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A new report released this morning by UNICEF and WHO says that deaths among children under 5 years of age between 1990 and 2010 have fallen by one-third. The number of children under five years of age who died each year declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this rate of progress is not sufficient to meet Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4), which calls for a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate by 2015, and nor are the declines observed in the most vulnerable of countries.

The UNICEF press release quotes Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, urging more investment: “Reductions in child mortality are linked to many factors, particularly increased access to health care services around the newborn period. As well as prevention and treatment of childhood illnesses, and improved nutrition, immunization coverage, and water and sanitation. This is proof that investing in children’s health is money well spent, and a sign that we need to accelerate that investment through the coming years.”

The new estimates are published in the 2011 report Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), which is led by UNICEF and WHO and includes the World Bank and the UN Population Division.

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