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Child mortality rates falling, but not fast enough

Global attempts to combat child mortality will probably fail to achieve UN goals, despite billions of dollars of investment, according to new reports.

The UN’s latest estimates on child mortality show that developed regions are rated as ‘on track’ to meet their 2015 target of 5 deaths per 1,000 children under 5 years old. But, although death rates have dropped rapidly in developing nations, their decline is insufficient to reach a 32-per-1,000 target by the same date, warns the UN’s child mortality estimation group.

In 2010, developing nations as a whole had 63 deaths per 1,000 under-5 children, with sub-Saharan Africa at 121 per 1,000.

mortality graph.JPG

Shortly after that report came out, a paper in The Lancet warned that, in addition to the ‘Millennium Development Goal’ (MDG 4) on child mortality, goal five, or MDG 5, related to maternal mortality, is also not likely to be achieved by 2015. “Immediate concerted action” is needed, say the paper authors.

“Even though progress on reducing maternal and child mortality in most countries is accelerating, most developing countries will take many years past 2015 to achieve the targets of the MDGs 4 and 5,” write Rafael Lozano, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, and his colleagues. “Similarly, although there continues to be progress on maternal mortality the pace is slow, without any overall evidence of acceleration.”

However, it’s not all doom and gloom at the UN General Assembly discussions of the Global Strategy for Women & Children’s Health in New York. Another report, from the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health notes the “unprecedented commitments” made towards the UN’s global strategy.

Carole Presern, director of the partnership, says that the focus on the “underperforming” MDGs has never been higher.

“We have a golden moment in time,” she says. “There has been some fantastic stuff put on the table.”

Now the task is to make sure that more investment is forthcoming and that this translates into driving down rates faster.

Graph: Nature, based on data from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.


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