NEW YORK – Around 15,000 children across the world died per day before turning five years old in 2016, and 46 percent of them died in the first 28 days of life, according to a new report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Despite a decline in mortality in the first five years of life, from 9.9 million deaths in 2000 to 5.6 million in 2016, the proportion of newborns among the deceased increased from 41% to 46% in this period.
“The lives of 50 million children under-five have been saved since 2000, a testament to the serious commitment by governments and development partners to tackle preventable child deaths,” UNICEF Chief of Health Stefan Swartling Peterson said in a statement.
“But unless we do more to stop babies from dying the day they are born, or days after their birth, this progress will remain incomplete. We have the knowledge and technologies that are required – we just need to take them where they are most needed,” he added.
The report predicts that 60 million children under the age of five will die between 2017-2030 if this trend continues.
The study was prepared by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), which includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
“Despite this progress, large disparities in child survival still exist across regions and countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet many deaths at these ages are easily preventable through simple, cost-effective interventions administered before, during and immediately after birth,” said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin.
The disparities between countries are reflected in the concentration of newborn deaths, with 39 percent in the Southern Asia region, 24 percent of which occurred in India and 10 percent in Pakistan.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 38 percent of newborn deaths in the world, of which 9 percent occurred in Nigeria. In that region, it was estimated that “one child in 36 dies in the first month, while in the world’s high income countries, the ratio is 1 in 333.”
Among children under five, the main causes of death were pneumonia and diarrhea, responsible for 16 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
In response, the report indicates that the solutions are to improve access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth, lifesaving interventions such as immunization, breastfeeding and inexpensive medicines, and to increase access to water and sanitation facilities.