New Delhi: India, Nigeria and Congo account for 40 percent of the 8.8 million deaths of children under the age of five years, a new UNICEF study released on Friday says.
Though a little satisfied over a drop in child mortality, the UN agency said these three countries were a key to the world achieving the millennium development goals by 2015. The goals have been set up by United Nations.
"A handful of countries with large populations bear a disproportionate burden of under-five deaths, with forty per cent of the world`s under-five deaths occurring in just three countries: India, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo," the global report said.
"Unless mortality in these countries is significantly reduced, the MDG (millennium development goals) targets will not be met," said UNICEF executive director Ann M Veneman.
The study said achieving the goal of a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate by 2015 would require a strong sense of urgency with targeted resources for greater progress.
While praising some countries for making efforts in reducing the mortality, UNICEF expressed dissatisfaction that South Africa was not doing enough in this regard.
"In some countries, the progress is slow or non-existent. In South Africa, the under-five mortality rate has actually gone up since 1990. The health of the child is inextricably linked to the health of the mother and South Africa has the highest number of women living with HIV in the world," the report said.
"Recent commitments by the government to scale up interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS should help improve the situation," the UN agency hoped.
UNICEF said the progress could be accelerated even in the poorest environments, through integrated, evidence-driven, community-based health programmes that focus on addressing the major causes of death -- pneumonia, diarrhoea, newborn disorders, malaria, HIV and under-nutrition.
"The two leading causes of under-five mortality are pneumonia and diarrhoea. New tools, such as vaccines against pneumococcal pneumonia and rotaviral diarrhoea, could provide (the) additional momentum," the report said.
The data, however, shows a 28 percent decline in the under-five mortality rate, from 90 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990, to 65 deaths per 1000 live births in 2008 in the world.
According to these estimates, the absolute number of child deaths in 2008 declined to an estimated 8.8 million from 12.5 million in 1990, the base line year for the millennium development goals.
"Compared to 1990, 10,000 fewer children are dying every day. While progress is being made, it is unacceptable that each year 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday," added Veneman.