The number of children who die before their fifth birthday fell
below 10 million in 2006, but much more still needs to be done, said a
report by the UN's children's agency UNICEF.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report attributed the
progress in children's mortality rates largely to improvements in
By comparison, an estimated 20 million children under five were
dying every year at the beginning of the 1960s.
But UNICEF's executive director, Ann Veneman, pointed out that "much
more must be done" and "if we do so, we can help create a better world
for girls and boys, and for generations to come."
More than 500 000 women still die every year, for example, as a
result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, about half of
whom die in sub-Saharan Africa, the report said.
The study also found an appalling lack of basic sanitation, hygiene
and drinkable water, which contributes to the deaths of more than 1.5
million children each year from diarrhoea and related ailments.
Aids number still rising
Moreover, the number of people living HIV/Aids worldwide
has continued to rise, affecting child welfare as well.
Only 11 percent of more than two million pregnant women living with
HIV in the majority of developing nations in 2005 received
antiretroviral prophylaxis to prevent them from infecting their babies,
according to the study.
In low- and middle-income countries, only 15 percent of HIV-infected
children under age 15 actually received treatment in 2006.
Among the good news reported was that between 1990 and 2004 more
than 1.2 billion people gained access to safe drinking water, which
resulted in fewer deaths from infectious diseases.
Vaccination and other forms of public health care have also made
great strides and have become more accessible.
More than four times as many children received the recommended two
doses of vitamin A in 2005 as in 1999, according to the report.
Progress in fight against malaria
All countries in sub-Saharan Africa made progress in expanding
coverage of insecticide-treated nets, a fundamental tool in halting
malaria, with 16 of these 20 countries at least tripling coverage since
And in the 47 countries, where 95 percent of measles deaths occur,
measles immunisation coverage increased from 57 percent in 1990 to 68
percent in 2006, UNICEF pointed out.
Between 1996 and 2000, rates of breastfeeding in developing
countries increased markedly, including in seven sub-Saharan African
countries which saw a 20 percent increase.
Education, a key tool for improving public health care, has become
more accessible, UN researchers noted.
The number of primary school-age children who were out of school
fell from 115 million in 2002 to 93 million in 2005-2006 while many
developing countries have come close to providing universal primary
The report's "findings reinforce UNICEF's conviction that the
combined efforts of governments, international organisations, civil
society, local communities and the private sector are making a
difference and delivering results for children," said Veneman. – (Sapa-AFP)