Since 1990, the world has almost cut infant mortality rates in half. Where the number of neonatal deaths in the first 28 days was once 5.1 million in 1990, there were just 2.7 million in 2015. Although this progress is heartening, it does not meet the Millennium Development Goal of a two-thirds decrease in the mortality rate for children under five.
In fact, over 17,000 children under five years old continue to die every day of treatable conditions. This is evidence that we must focus on this problem more heavily, and that child survival must be made an ongoing priority. Here are ten facts about child mortality:
- About 99 percent of newborn deaths transpire in low and middle-income countries.
- Africa and South Asia currently have the highest rates of infant mortality and show the least amount of progress in combating it.
- In 2015, 5.9 million children died before their fifth birthday. This is equivalent to 11 child deaths every minute.
- Approximately 2.7 million child deaths occur within their first month of life. Nearly 50 percent of these deaths occur within the first 24 hours, while 75 percent occur within the first week.
- A child’s risk of mortality is highest in the neonatal period. This period occurs in the first 28 days of a child’s life.
- Leading causes of child mortality in children under 5 years include preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria.
- Roughly 45 percent of all child deaths are at least in part due to malnutrition.
- Children who have lost their mothers are ten times as likely to die prematurely than children whose mothers are present.
- In 2015, low-income countries saw one child in every 13 die before the age of five. In wealthy nations, this occurred in only one child of every 143.
- About 3 million of the 5.9 million children who die each year can be saved at low cost to wealthy nations.
There are things that can be done to help. Access to affordable health care has proven effective against child fatality in developing nations. In fact, more than half of child fatalities worldwide are due to conditions that can be easily treated or prevented should mothers and children be given access to simple and affordable care.
The 48 hours following birth are the most important, as this is when the mother and child are most vulnerable. It is also important that mothers and their children receive follow-up care to both prevent and treat illness.
The bipartisan Reach Every Mother and Child Act (H.R. 3706) is one such solution that works toward ending preventable deaths of mothers and young children in developing countries. If the bill should pass, it would mandate a multi-year strategy to combat maternal and infant mortality, part of which would entail establishing a permanent United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator.
The job of this coordinator would be to find and implement a strategy that will bolster the most effective treatments and interventions making them available or scaled up in target countries. It would also require the executive branch of the United States government to develop a fiscal framework to get commitments from non-profit organizations, the private sector, ally countries and global organizations.
Infant mortality is a problem in this world. However, by working together to lobby congress and by donating to global organizations such as UNICEF it is one that we can work to alleviate.
You can make a difference by asking your members of Congress to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act here.
– Kayla Provencher