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Child mortality still high among poor

7th September 2010

An international children's charity has said that four million child deaths could have been prevented in a 10-year period if countries had made the same effort to help poor children as better-off ones.

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Save the Children said in a new report that it has discovered a dangerous trend among many developing countries of tackling health problems in better-off communities so as to boost child mortality figures.

The effect has been devastating for the less well-off children in those countries.

This means that average global figures showing a 28% drop in child mortality figures over the past decade may be misleading.

The figures masks a growing "mortality gap" between the richest and poorest children in developing countries, the aid agency said.

But the report said it was possible for countries to reduce child mortality in a more equitable way. It also attacked commonly held assumptions that the richer a country is, the more children's lives it is able to save.

By contrast, it identifies seven countries where child mortality fell and the gap between different income groups narrowed.

Entitled A Fair Chance at Life, the report shows that some of the world's poorest countries, including Ghana and Bolivia, have managed to reduce child mortality dramatically by focusing on helping the poorest.

Rwanda, on the other hand, has seen a fall in child mortality among the richer families, and an increase among the poorest communities.

Meanwhile, poor children in India are up to three times more likely to die than the richest children.

Released ahead of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit attended by world leaders next week in New York, the report highlights the fact that, of all the millennium goals, child mortality is the furthest of all from being realised.

MDGs are internationally agreed targets to combat global poverty by 2015.

The MDG for child mortality was set at a fall of 67% by 2015. However, child mortality has only fallen by 28% since 1990, with only five years left to go.

Save the Children International chief executive Jasmine Whitbread said the findings were a disgrace, with some countries just "ticking a box" on the child mortality goal.

"It is a disgrace that some countries are ‘ticking a box' on child mortality without ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable children benefit equally.

She said nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year, often from easily preventable or treatable illnesses, because of poverty and marginalisation.

But many governments were turning a blind eye to these deaths because it is easier to help children from better-off groups, Whitbread said.

She said that prioritising the poor was one of the surest ways for a country to reduce child mortality.

 

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