One child or youth death every 4.4 seconds in 2021

About 5 million children died before their fifth birthday and some 2.1 million children and young people aged 5 to 24 lost their lives in 2021, according to the latest estimates published by the Inter-Agency Group for the United Nations child mortality estimate.

Quoted in a press release from the World Bank, another recent report by the same group reports 1.9 million stillbirths recorded over the same period. This is all the more tragic since a large number of these deaths could have been avoided by ensuring that mothers, newborns, children and adolescents have equitable access to high quality care.

“Every day, far too many parents deal with the trauma of losing a child, sometimes before they even hear their first cry,” said Vidhya Ganesh, Data Division Director, Analytics, UNICEF planning and monitoring.

Both reports nevertheless highlight several positive outcomes, such as a decline in global mortality risk for all ages since 2000. The global under-5 mortality rate has thus fallen by 50% since the beginning of the century, while the mortality rate of older children and young people has fallen by 36%, notes the press release of the international institution based in Washington which notes that the rate of stillbirths, as for he recorded a drop of 35%.

These improvements are the result of additional investments made to strengthen primary health care systems for the benefit of women, children and young people.

However, a marked slowdown in progress has been observed since 2010, and 54 countries will not achieve the infant and child mortality target set in the Sustainable Development Goals. In the absence of rapid action to improve health services, international organizations predict nearly 59 million deaths of children and young people by 2030, to which will be added some 16 million stillbirths.

“It is absolutely unfair that a child’s chances of survival can vary simply by where they are born and that there are such inequities in access to life-saving health services,” said Anshu Banerjee, Director of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Children’s chances of survival remain highly dependent on their region of origin, with reports showing that those born in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are the most disadvantaged. “These figures are indicative of the denial of basic health rights to millions of children and families,” said Juan Pablo Uribe, Global Director, Health, Nutrition and Population and Global Financing Facility, World Bank.

Referring to the Covid pandemic, the latest reports are particularly concerned about the disruptions that have hampered vaccination campaigns, the delivery of nutrition services and access to primary health care. The pandemic has caused the largest uninterrupted decline in vaccinations in three decades, putting the most vulnerable newborns and children at increased risk of dying from preventable diseases.

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