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U.N. Report Finds Early Childhood Deaths Halved Since 1990, But 18,000 Under 5 Die Each Day

“Early childhood deaths around the world have been cut in half since 1990 but some 18,000 children under five still die every day, according to a new report [.pdf]” released by UNICEF, the World Bank and the WHO on Friday, Agence France-Presse reports (9/13). “Nearly half of all children who die are in five countries: Nigeria, Congo, India, Pakistan and China,” according to the report, the Associated Presse notes, adding, “The top killers are malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, the report said, taking the lives of about 6,000 children under age five daily,” and “[a] lack of nutrition contributes to almost half of these deaths, the U.N. said” (Petesch, 9/13). “While all the top killers have taken fewer and fewer children over the past two decades, the most marked progress has been against diarrhea, which killed 50 percent fewer children in 2012 than it did in 1990,” GlobalPost writes, noting, “The battle against pneumonia and malaria has been slower, dropping by a third between 1990 and 2012.”

However, “[a]s the numbers of children who die from infectious disease has dropped, the proportion of children who die from birth-related complications and infections during the first month of life has ballooned,” GlobalPost adds (Stuart, 9/12). In addition, the “researchers say the improvements are encouraging  but there are still challenges in reaching the group’s Millennium Development Goal [MDG] of lowering mortality among children under five by two-thirds by 2015,” and, “[i]f current trends continue, that target won’t be reached,” according to TIME (Sifferlin, 9/13). “The cost of inaction is alarmingly high: as many as 35 million more children could die mostly from preventable causes between 2015 and 2028, if the global community does not take immediate action to accelerate progress,” a UNICEF press release writes (9/13). “The lives of most of these babies could be saved if they had access to some basic health-care services,” a WHO press release states, adding, “These include skilled care during and after childbirth; inexpensive medicines such as antibiotics; and practices such as skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their newborn babies and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life” (9/13).