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Report Calls For Refocusing Health Spending In Developing Countries To Save Children’s Lives

“More than 24,000 infants die daily from preventable diseases in developing countries,” and child deaths have fallen in countries where governments “have shown a high level of political leadership on child health,” World Vision International said in a new report (.pdf) released on Monday as part of a five-year campaign to reduce child deaths worldwide, the Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle reports. While 9 million children die annually, “infant deaths have attracted little political attention either from the worst-affected countries or at an international level, the group said.”

Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are noted as the “epicenter of the child health emergency,” the AP/San Francisco Chronicle writes. According to the report, half of all child deaths occur in five countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia are the leading causes of child deaths and are the cause of 45 percent of the deaths, according to World Vision.

“This is more than just a problem facing the developing world. It is a silent emergency. And it is, I believe, the greatest child rights violation of our time,” said Kevin Jenkins, World Vision’s president and chief executive. According to AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Jenkins “urged wealthy nations to fulfill their promises and to improve conditions in developing countries” (Odula, 11/16). 

“At least two-thirds of these children could be saved, if governments make child health a priority and refocus health spending on prevention in the community and not just cures at the clinic,” according to a World Vision release. Justin Byworth, the chief executive of World Vision UK, said, “Over a quarter of a billion children live in a healthcare desert, miles from the nearest clinic or hospital.” Byworth added, “These unreachable children need simple life-savers in their homes and villages, such as mosquito nets, nutritional supplements and safe, clean drinking water, if we are going to prevent children dying from conditions such as diarrhoea and malaria” (11/16).

 
In related news, the group Plan International released a report on Monday documenting their efforts to “register over 40 million people, mostly children, in 32 countries” over the last five years, Reuters AlertNet reports (Baldwin, 11/16). According to the group, “Children without any record of identification are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse such as human trafficking and prostitution, being forced into under-age marriages or into becoming child soldiers,” the BBC writes (11/16).
 
Registration helps children “access a number of vital benefits, including life-saving medicines and immunization programs,” CNN writes. “A quarter of developing countries with birth registration data have a birth registration rate of less than 50 percent. We must think outside the traditional boxes and really see what birth registration means for a child throughout their whole life,” according to Susan Bissell, head of child protection for UNICEF (Kermeliotis, 11/17). Experts are at a two-day conference in London to examine Plan International’s campaign and explore ways to continue it, the BBC reports (11/16).