MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

Child deaths down by almost half since 1990

Global child deaths are down by nearly half since 1990, according to a new report released on Friday by multiple U.N. agencies.

According to the report, which was released by UNICEF, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division, the World Bank Group and the World Health Organization, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide died before reaching their fifth birthday. The number is roughly half the number of children under five who died in 1990, when more than 12 million children died.

"This trend is a positive one. Millions of lives have been saved," Anthony Lake, UNICEF's executive director, said. "And we can do still better. Most of these deaths can be prevented, using simple steps that many countries have already put in place - what we need is a greater sense of urgency."

The major causes of death among children include malaria, diarrhea, birth asphyxia, prematurity and pneumonia. Approximately 45 percent of under-five deaths are associated with undernutrition.

Approximately half of under-five deaths occur in just five countries: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Democratic Republic of Congo. India and Nigeria represent more than one-third of all deaths of children under the age of five.

The report found that most newborn children could be saved if they had access to basic healthcare services.

"Care for mother and baby in the first 24 hours of any child's life is critical for the health and wellbeing of both," Margaret Chan, the director-general at the WHO, said. "Up to half of all newborn deaths occur within the first day."

The child death rate is currently insufficient to reach Millennium Development Goal IV, which means to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015.

The report said that continued investments to strengthen health systems are needed to give mothers and children the care they need to live healthy lives.