Over 5 Million Children Died in 2021 of Preventable Causes, Says UN Group



Some African children in a group photograph

Over five million children under age 5 and another 2.1 million children and youth aged between 5 and 24 years lost their lives in 2021, according to a new report from the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), released on Tuesday.

Another report from the group stated that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period.

The group however decried this tragic and massive loss of lives, saying most of the deaths were due to preventable or treatable causes, which is a stark reminder of the urgent need to end preventable deaths of children and young people.

Sadly, the agency remarked that these deaths were mostly preventable with widespread and effective interventions like improved care around the time of birth, vaccination, nutritional supplementation, water and sanitation programmes.

Reacting to the tragic development, UNICEF Director of the Division of Data Analytics, Planning and Monitoring, Vidhya Ganesh, said “Every day, far too many parents are facing the trauma of losing their children, sometimes even before their first breath. Such widespread, preventable tragedy should never be accepted as inevitable. Progress is possible with stronger political will and targeted investment in equitable access to primary health care for every woman and child.”

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The reports show some positive outcomes with a lower risk of death across all ages globally since 2000. The global under-five mortality rate fell by 50 per cent since the start of the century, while mortality rates in older children and youth dropped by 36 per cent, and the stillbirth rate decreased by 35 per cent. This can be attributed to more investments in strengthening primary health systems to benefit women, children and young people.

However, gains have reduced significantly since 2010, and 54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality. If swift action is not taken to improve health services, warned the agencies, almost 59 million children and youth will die before 2030, and nearly 16 million babies will be lost to stillbirth.

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“It is grossly unjust that a child’s chances of survival can be shaped just by their place of birth, and that there are such vast inequities in their access to lifesaving health services.

“Children everywhere need strong primary health care systems that meet their needs and those of their families, so that – no matter where they are born – they have the best start and hope for the future,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, director for Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The reports further identified sub-Saharan Africa as the region with the highest neonatal mortality rate (NMR) in the world with 27 deaths per 1,000 live births as against 18 deaths per 1,000 live births in other regions of the globe.

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A child born in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the reports, is 11 times more likely to die in the first month of life than a child born in the region of Australia and New Zealand, which has the lowest regional NMR in the world.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is followed by Central and Southern Asia at 22 deaths per 1,000 live births. The risk of death in the first month of life for a child born in a high-income country was one tenth the risk for a child born in a low-income country.

“At the country level, the risk of dying during the first 28 days of life for a child born in the highest mortality country was about 53 times higher than in the lowest-mortality country” the reports revealed.





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