Around the world, the rate of death for children 5 years old and younger continues to fall. In fact, annual decreases are growing at a faster and faster rate. In 2010, there were 7.6 million deaths of children in that same age range.
In 2011, the number of children who died was below 7 million, a high number to be sure. Four-fifths of those deaths, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, happened in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and were the result of mostly preventable diseases.
There are 19,000 deaths of children under five that happen every day. Thirty percent of those are caused by pneumonia and diarrhea. Half of the pneumonia and diarrhea deaths occur in just four countries, the report found: Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake told the Associated Press that the world has the technology to prevent most of these deaths. The challenge is making these technologies available to every child.
“Given the prospect that these regions, especially sub-Saharan Africa, will account for the bulk of the world’s births in the next years, we must give new impetus to the global momentum to reduce under-five deaths,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in the report.
He said youngsters from disadvantaged and marginalized families in poor and fragile nations are the most likely to die before their fifth birthday, but their lives can be saved with vaccines, adequate nutrition and basic medical and maternal care.
The quick rate of decline in deaths can be attributed to two decades of progress some low- and middle-income countries have made.
Low income countries such as Bangladesh, Liberia and Rwanda, middle income countries including Brazil, Mongolia and Turkey, and high income countries such as Oman and Portugal have all made dramatic gains, lowering their under-five mortality rates by more than two-thirds between 1990 and 2011, the report said.