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Lives of 90 million children saved in last two decades, but global efforts still fall short

Sep 13, 2013

In spite of progress, a new UNICEF report suggests that Millennium Development Goal 4 will not be met until 2028

The lives of 90 million children have been saved thanks to global efforts in the last 20 years, according to a new report from UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and other partners. In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide – or 18,000 a day – died before reaching the age of five. In 1990 that figure was more than double, at over 12 million under-five deaths.

Yet, if current trends continue, Millennium Development Goal 4 – to reduce child deaths by two thirds by 2015 - will not be met until 2028 - 13 years late.

The cost of inaction, the report says, is alarmingly high. Around 35 million children could die between 2015 and 2028, many from preventable diseases, if efforts to tackle child mortality are not rapidly accelerated. Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria remain the leading causes of child deaths globally.

Since 2009, Malaria Consortium has been working with ministries of health to implement a community based strategy for tackling child mortality in four sub-Saharan African countries. The approach – known as integrated community case management or ICCM – involves training of community health workers to diagnose and treat the three leading childhood killers: pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. The aim is to reduce the loss of life to preventable diseases that result from problems of access to appropriately equipped health facilities. In an effort reach this goal, over 14,000 community health workers have been trained, providing close to three million treatments for over 2.4 million cases across the continent to date. 

Calling for the urgent scale up of community based integrated management of these common childhood diseases (ICCM), Dr James Tibenderana, Malaria Consortium’s Technical Director for Africa said: “Without sustained coverage of ICCM we can’t achieve the MDGs, specifically MDG 4. Community health workers are addressing a need and would like to be part of the solution. This is what the public health community has been looking for – a process from which the bottom can get to the top and demand services for child health and that their rights are met. ICCM provides this platform.”

Malaria Consortium’s work in ICCM is currently funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Planet Wheeler Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (UKaid).

Read the full report “Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed - Progress Report 2013” here.

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