Nearly 50 million lives saved since 2000; millions more can be saved by 2030: UNICEF

New-born shows an improving health status after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit.
Premature newborn health is improving after being treated at Yekatit 12 Hospital Medical College, in Neonatal intensive care unit. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Mersha

NEW YORK/Addis Ababa, 9 September 2015 – The rate of decline in mortality among the world’s youngest children has more than doubled over a generation, and an additional 38 million lives could be saved by 2030 if progress accelerates further, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) world leaders are set to approve later this month.

Since 2000, when governments committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the lives of 48 million children under the age of five have been saved. This remarkable progress is the result of sustained action by leaders – to make saving children’s lives a policy and a political priority, to improve and use data about child survival, and to scale up proven interventions.

The number of children who die from mostly preventable causes before they turn five now stands at 5.9 million a year – a 53 per cent drop since 1990. At 3.9 percent the global annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality between 2000 and 2015 was more than twice as high as what it was in the 1990s.

Some of the world’s poorest countries have demonstrated that substantial reductions in child mortality can be achieved despite formidable obstacles:

  • 24 out of 81 low- and lower-middle income countries, including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Uganda, achieved the MDG of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds or more.[1]
  • Between 2000 and 2015, twenty-one sub-Saharan African countries reversed a rising mortality trend or at least tripled their pace of progress compared to the 1990s.

Low income countries are: Cambodia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Lower-middle income countries are: Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan; Nicaragua; Timor-Leste; Yemen.

To reiterate the agenda, A Call to Action Summit took place from 27-28 August 2015 in New Delhi, India with the aim of ending preventable deaths of children and mothers by 2035. This was a prelude to the United Nations Summit for the adoption of post-2015 development agenda that will be held as a high-level plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly in September 2015.The two-day Leadership Summit was a confluence of health ministers from over 10 priority countries that committed to the global Call to Action for Child Survival in June 2012 including Ethiopia.

At the Summit, Ethiopia was represented by His Excellency Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu accompanied by the technical team, including representatives from CSOs. In addition, Abelone Melese, UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia, deliberated a speech and recited two songs entitled, “Welaj Enat” and “Happy Birthdays” to the participants of the Summit.

Dr. Kesete presented the progress accomplished by the Government of Ethiopia during the last decade and the new priorities- Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care. He said, “The Government of Ethiopia is committed to end preventable maternal and child deaths. This will be possible through unwavering political commitment, community ownership, and universal health

coverage of high impact interventions. To consolidate the gains that were made during the MDGs and accelerate the progress towards the noble cause of ending preventable maternal and child deaths, the Ministry of Health has developed a 5-year-Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP) 2015-2020. The plan has set out ambitious goals to be achieved in this period. I would like to state four of the transformational agendas that were set out in this plan. Ensuring “Quality” & Equity” in health care: Equity and quality are the core goals of the health sector transformation plan, which aspires to build a high performing health system”.

UNICEF will continue to support the Government of Ethiopia to sustain the gains made on Child Survival and ensure that the unfinished business of neonatal and maternal mortality are rapidly addressed.

“Saving the lives of millions of children in urban and rural settings, in wealthy and poor countries, is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium — and one of the biggest challenges of the next 15 years is to further accelerate this progress” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt. “The data tell us that millions of children do not have to die — if we focus greater effort on reaching every child.”

Simple, high-impact, cost effective solutions that contributed to this dramatic reduction of under-five deaths include skilled antenatal, delivery and postnatal care; breastfeeding; immunization; insecticide-treated mosquito nets; improved water and sanitation; oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea; antibiotics for pneumonia; nutritional supplements and therapeutic foods.

Despite this impressive progress, the world has not met the MDG target of reducing under-five mortality by two-thirds.

Between 1990 and the end of 2015, an estimated 236 million children will have died from mostly preventable causes before turning five. Today, leading causes of under-five deaths include prematurity; pneumonia; complications during labour and delivery; diarrhoea; and malaria. Under-nutrition contributes to nearly half of all under-five deaths.

The SDGs challenge countries to significantly increase their efforts to bring rates of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) per 1,000 live births by 2030. By picking up the pace, especially in countries that are lagging, the world stands to save the lives of 38 million more children under the age of five.

About A Promise Renewed

Since its initiation in 2012, A Promise Renewed has focused on promoting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and continuing the effort until no child or mother dies from preventable causes. Partners that support A Promise Renewed have committed to five priority actions:

  1. Increasing efforts in the countries facing the greatest challenges on under-five mortality;
  2. Scaling up access to underserved populations everywhere;
  3. Addressing the causes that account for the majority of under-five deaths;
  4. Increasing emphasis on the underlying drivers of child mortality, such as women’s education and empowerment;
  5. Rallying around a shared goal and using common metrics to track progress.

Download the report

Simple, Cheap Health Remedies Cut Child Mortality In Ethiopia

Health extension worker Bruktawit Mulu
Health extension worker Bruktawit Mulu ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose

By NPR

Poor countries are starting to realize something that richer ones sometimes forget: Basic, inexpensive measures can have dramatic impacts on the health of a country. And they can save thousands of lives.

Take, for instance, the situation in Ethiopia.

The country used to have one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world.

“If you were a kid born in 1990 [in Ethiopia], you had a 1 in 5 chance of not surviving to your fifth birthday,” says Peter Salama, who directs UNICEF’s efforts in Ethiopia.

Since then, the country has improved that survival rate by about 60 percent. “So [Ethiopia has made] a tremendous achievement in the space of two decades,” Salama says.

This progress isn’t a result of expensive international aid or the recruitment of foreign doctors into Ethiopia. Instead, the country has invested in simple, bare-bone clinics scattered around the country, which are run by minimally-educated community health workers.

Foos Muhumed Gudaal is one of 35,000 rural health extension workers in Ethiopia. She practices at a post in the village of Walgo Yar in the eastern part of the country. The clinic is a simple, cement building with only two rooms: one for Gudaal to live in and one that serves as a consultation room. There is no electricity. There are no lights.

Gudaal’s role at the post is a bit like the old image of a small-town pediatrician. But she isn’t even a nurse. Instead, Gudaal, along with all the other health extension workers, has gone through a special, one-year training program.

Her salary also isn’t anywhere near that of a pediatrician. She earns roughly $35 each month.

But Gudaal can still treat the diseases that often cut a child’s life short in Ethiopia. And she can make sure kids in the village are up to date on their vaccines.

One of the main conditions Gudaal deals with is malaria. The parasite kills about 600 million people worldwide each year, and the vast majority of those deaths occur in children under age 5. Gudaal can diagnose and treat most malaria cases at her health post.

She can also easily treat diarrhea and respiratory infections, two other major killers of children in the developing world.

Because there is no electricity at the clinic, Gudaal has to rely on a kerosene-fired refrigerator to keep her vaccines cold. The aging fridge sits in a small shed next to the consultation room.

Gudaal lifts several vaccine vials out of the fridge. She not only administers immunizations, but she also keeps records for who in the village needs shots and boosters.

Since being launched a decade ago, this health extension program in Ethiopia has had a huge effect in the country, Salama says.

Quite simply, it has saved lives. “Children are now treated right across the country on a scale that was previously unheard of around the world,” he says.

“Take acute severe malnutrition, for which Ethiopia was famous in the ’70s and ’80s,” Salama says. “Today, successfully, these same lady health workers treat 300,000 children [each year] for severe malnutrition.” Previously, these children would have most invariably died, he says.

Despite these improvements, Ethiopia still has a long way to go when it comes to children’s health. Malnutrition is still the leading cause of death for children under age 5 in the country. Nearly 20 percent of Ethiopian babies are born underweight, weighing less than 5 1/2 pounds. And about 40 percent of kids don’t reach a normal height because of malnutrition.

But, Salama says, the beauty of Ethiopia’s health extension program is that it’s sustainable. It’s run by the government, not a foreign foundation or agency. So as long as there’s the political will, it’s able to reach kids across the country.

Original Story http://www.wbur.org/npr/255448192/simple-cheap-health-remedies-cut-child-mortality-in-ethiopia 

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