The rate of decline in child deaths has more than doubled over a generation and an additional 38 million lives could be saved by 2030 if progress accelerates in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be announced by world leaders at the United Nations later this month.

UNICEF’s A Promise Renewed: 2015 Progress Report, released today, has shown the past 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has driven extraordinary results for child survival.

UNICEF said the Millennium Development Goals, to be replaced this month by 17 Sustainable Development Goals have made saving children’s lives a policy and a political priority, improved data about child survival and drove the scaling up of proven interventions.

“Saving the lives of millions of children is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium,” UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt. “One of the biggest challenges of the next 15 years is to further accelerate this progress” Ms Brandt said. 

The number of children dying from mostly preventable causes before the age of five has more than halved since 1990, down from about 12 million that year to 5.9 million.

The greatest rate of acceleration in ending preventable child deaths has occurred over the past 15 years with some of the world’s poorest countries demonstrating substantial reductions in child mortality despite formidable obstacles.

“The data tell us millions of children do not have to die if we focus greater effort on reaching every child,” Ms Brandt said.

Simple, high-impact, cost effective solutions have contributed to the recent and dramatic reduction in under-five deaths, including:
  • skilled antenatal, delivery and postnatal care;
  • breastfeeding;
  • immunisation;
  • insecticide-treated mosquito nets;
  • improved water and sanitation;
  • oral rehydration therapy for diarrhoea;
  • antibiotics for pneumonia; and,
  • nutritional supplements and therapeutic foods.
Despite impressive progress the world has not met the Millennium Development Goal target to reduce 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 Sustainable Development Goals challenge countries to significantly increase their efforts to bring rates of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) for every 1000 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.

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