UNITED NATIONS, United States: The child mortality rate around the world has dropped by nearly half since 1990, the United Nations said Tuesday in its latest report showing a new decrease in 2013.
Last year, more than six million children died before reaching the age of five, around 200,000 fewer than the year before, according to the report by the UN children’s fund UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
“There has been dramatic and accelerating progress in reducing mortality among children, and the data prove that success is possible even for poorly resourced countries,” said Mickey Chopra, head of UNICEF’s global health programs.
Eight countries have succeeded in slashing their child mortality rates by at least two-thirds since 1990: Malawi, Bangladesh, Liberia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, East Timor, Niger and Eritrea.
Still, a child born in Angola, which has the world’s highest child mortality rate (167 deaths per 1,000 live births), is 84 times more likely to die before his fifth birthday than a child born in Luxembourg, which has the lowest rate (2 deaths).
A key factor underpinning the dramatic drop in under-five deaths has been technological progress in the diagnosis and treatment of killer diseases.
“One of the most exciting things in the past few years has been the innovation in new technology which has allowed us to deliver life-saving interventions in a much more cost-effective manner, particularly in some of the poorest areas of the world,” Chopra told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.
He cited the diagnosis of malaria, which has evolved from complex lab tests to a simple blood test on a strip.
“There is no need for doctors or nurses. Community workers can now do that,” he said.
The top killers of children under-five also include pneumonia, diarrhea and birth complications. Malnutrition plays a role in more than half the deaths.
After Angola, Sierra Leone had the second highest child mortality rate in 2013, (161 deaths per 1,000 live births), followed by Chad (148), Somalia (146) and Central African Republic (139).
Luxembourg, Finland (3 deaths per 1,000 live births), Norway (3), Singapore (3) and Japan (3) topped the list of countries with the lowest child mortality rates in 2013.