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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Still much to do on child health

10th December 2007

An alarming number of children under five still suffer under-nutrition, with more than half of them in South Asia, according to a new report from the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef.


Around 143 million children worldwide are undernourished, while treatment for major childhood diseases such as pneumonia and malaria has also been slow to expand, the agency said.

More than 500,000 women still die every year during pregnancy and childbirth, about half of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

Much more still needs to be done to improve basic sanitation and prevent HIV/AIDS.

While the report says considerable strides have been made towards targets in education and areas of healthcare, the 2015 Millennium Development Goals were still a long way off for many children.

Areas of urgent action include maternal mortality, HIV prevention and pneumonia, which kills more children than any other illness.

Unicef published its sixth Progress for Children report since 2004, in which it also noted some "remarkable" progress in the mortality rate among under-fives.

This has fallen by 60% since 1960, to 9.7 million.

Improvements have also been seen in measles immunisation, breastfeeding rates, malaria prevention and supplements of vitamin A, which can help prevent common illnesses.

Unicef said the combined efforts of governments, international organisations, civil society, local communities and the private sector were making a difference and delivering results for children, but progress now needed to be accelerate to meet the goals by 2015.

Sub-Saharan Africa still has many of the worst indicators for children, although Unicef records a rise of 20% in breastfeeding rates in seven countries in the region between 1996 and 2004.

It is thought that breastfeeding could prevent as many as 13% of under-five deaths in developing countries.

Meanwhile, an increase in the number of countries promoting the use of insecticide-soaked mosquito nets had saved the lives of many children by preventing malaria.

And access to antiretroviral drugs to reduce HIV/AIDS infection rates in mothers and children had risen significantly, the report said.

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