ROCKVILLE, Md. — The Demographic and Health Survey recently revealed that the under 5 years old mortality rate has decreased by 30 percent. Reducing the mortality rate of children under 5 by two-thirds from 1990 to 2015 is the fourth Millennium Development Goal. After the release of this survey, the United Nations is hopeful that this goal will be achieved by the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline. As the survey suggests, there have been several advances in promoting a healthy childhood in developing countries. According to UNICEF, there have been significant increases in the uses of the following health measurements:
- Insecticide-treated mosquito nets
- Vaccinations against measles
- Births assisted by qualified medics
Mosquito bites can transmit a variety of life-threatening diseases, such as malaria, which resulted in approximately 627,000 deaths in 2012, according to the World Health Organization. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this approximation is that a large number of those lives could have been saved since a large majority of these diseases, like malaria, are both avoidable and treatable. But as more children gain access to preventive measures, that number has decreased since 56 percent of children are now protected by mosquito nets.
Although measles remain to be a main cause of child deaths, vaccinations are key in preventing children from acquiring such infections and diseases. According to the WHO, approximately 122,000 deaths were caused by measles alone in 2012. Vaccinations against measles are both safe and inexpensive, and as a result of these vaccines becoming more readily available, 72 percent of children now have access to these important health measurements. Especially in developing countries, the health of each child heavily depends on the health of the mother, even before the child is born.
According to Humanosphere, childbirth complications such as sepsis and hemorrhages caused about 289,000 maternal deaths in 2013, but this number is steadily decreasing due to qualified medics assisting with approximately 80 percent of births. The presence of midwives at these births has also contributed to this decrease in child mortality deaths. According to the U.N. Population Fund, which works to provide both mothers and young children the necessary tools to promote a healthy lifestyle, 87 percent of the care both mothers and newborns need can be provided by midwives.
This report also revealed that the presence of midwives at birth can prevent approximately two-thirds of both maternal and newborn deaths, which outline the U.N.’s fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals. Agencies such as the U.N. Population Fund have worked to promote the midwifery education, especially in developing countries.
Approximately 90 percent of newborn deaths occur in Asia, Africa and Latin America, yet only 42 percent of the world’s health workforce is present in these countries, according to Humanosphere. Fortunately, as the need for midwives and other medical staff is being acknowledged by numerous agencies, the number of under-5 child deaths has decreased.
Although the child mortality rates have certainly dropped, 6.6 million children under 5 died in 2012 alone according to the U.N. This number is still too high, especially if the U.N. wishes to achieve this Millennium Development Goal before the end of next year. To help reach this goal, the Demographic and Health Survey also revealed the areas in which improvement is still desperately needed to continually decrease the child mortality rate:
- High levels of malnutrition
- Continuation of vaccinations
- Treatment of illnesses
Chronic malnutrition, which affects about 162 million children according to the WHO, has become a major concern in maternal and child health because this condition affects the child’s ability to grow even before birth.
Despite developing countries working to decrease the amount of children affected by malnutrition, the survey showed that there has been a mere 1 percent decrease in the number of underweight children since 2010. Even though vaccines are more accessible in developing countries, the survey also indicated that only 25 percent of children get the third dose of the five-in-one vaccine, which helps children grow immunity to diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, haemophilus influenza B and hepatitis B, after receiving the first dose.
This shows that not only are a large majority of children unprotected from these deadly diseases, but also that this health service process needs to be reinforced. A final improvement to be made is an increase in the number of children who receive medical attention for illnesses such as fever, respiratory infection or diarrhea, since the survey indicated that only 40 percent currently do so. Assistance from health services is key to help children recover from these illnesses, which will only serve to further decrease the child mortality rate. Working to decrease child mortality rates will not only promote healthy lifestyles for children, but also improve global health overall. Reducing this rate by two-thirds is obviously a difficult goal, but the progress made in global health practices shows that this goal is achievable. Children, like all individuals, deserve to live a long, healthy life, which is why this Millennium Development Goal represents such a worthy cause.