United Nations: Global efforts to end preventable deaths of children under five years of age saved some 90 million lives in the past two decades, but even at the current rate, a universal target to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 will not be achieved, a new UN report says.
The number of deaths fell to 6.6 million in 2012 from 12.6 million in 1990, according to the report released yesterday, titled, `2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed`.
"Yes, we should celebrate the progress, but how can we celebrate when there is so much more to do before we reach the goal. And we can speed up the progress we know how, but we need to act with a renewed sense of urgency," said Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF).
The reductions are due to more effective and affordable treatments, improvements in mothers` nutrition and education, innovations in bringing critical services to poor and excluded people and sustained political commitment.
Unless progress is sped up, however, it will take until 2028 before the world meets the target set by the Millennium Development Goals to reduce overall child mortality by two-thirds by 2015, the report said.
During that time, as many as 35 million more children would have died, UNICEF cautioned.
Some of the world`s poorest countries have made the strongest gains in child survival since 1990.
A few high-mortality, low-income countries - Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Timor Leste and Tanzania - have already reduced their under-five mortality rates by two-thirds or more since 1990, according to the figures in the report.
East Asia and Asia Pacific leads the global trend in reductions in child mortality as the region reduced its under-five mortality by over 60 per cent, UNICEF reported.
In contrast, West and Central Africa has seen a drop of just 39 per cent in its under-five mortality, the lowest among all the regions with almost one in every eight children dying before the age of five due to a number of reasons including low social benefits, lack of sanitation facilities, and poor education rates.
The governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States, together with the UN agency, launched a global initiative last year, `Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed`, to accelerate efforts to stop young children from dying from preventable causes.
Some 176 governments have signed on, including those making some of the greatest strides in under-five mortality.
The report highlighted that pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria remain the leading causes of child deaths globally, claiming the lives of around 6,000 children under five each day while undernutrition contributes to almost half of all under-five deaths.
The first month of life is the most precarious for a child, according to the report.
In 2012, close to three million babies died during the first month of life, mostly from easily preventable causes.