Race to save mothers, children set to fall short

September 20, 2011

A global campaign to save new mothers and children under five in developing nations has made strong gains but is set to fall well shy of UN goals, according to a study released Tuesday.

Only nine out of 137 countries are on track to meet the twin (MDG), set in 2000, of slashing child mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and by three-quarters over the same period.

Based on current trends, 31 will reach the first target, and 13 will achieve the second, said the study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The nine countries set to achieve both UN targets for 2015 are: China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Mongolia, Peru, Syria and Tunisia.

The glass-half-empty glass-half-full report, published in The , nonetheless underscored major progress in reducing child mortality.

Overall, the number of deaths of children under five in the African, Asian and Latin American countries examined dropped from 11.6 million in 1990 to an estimated 7.2 million in 2011, an average decline of 2.2 percent per year.

Some nations -- including Cambodia, Ecuador, Rwanda, Malaysia and Vietnam -- saw at least a five percent rate of decline over the last decade, more than twice the global average.

But such advances must not obscure the fact that millions of infants and small children succumb to preventable deaths every year, a fact highlighted by the huge gap between rich and poor nations, the authors said.

In 2011 the in Sweden, Italy and Greece is about 0.5 deaths per 1,000 , whereas in Niger and it is about 87, a 173-fold difference.

Also worrying, said the researchers, was the mortality rate among infants during the first week of life, which declined only 1.7 percent over the two-decade period.

"The difference between neonatal and overall mortality in children under five might seem small ... but it can be a sign of other problems in the health system," co-author Haidong Wang, a professor at IHME, said in a statement.

For maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth, the number fell from just under 410,000 in 1990 to 273,500 in 2011.

Kenya, Morocco, Zambia and Zimbabwe led the way over the last decade with annual declines in of more than eight percent. Even war-torn Afghanistan -- which continues to have one of the worst maternal death rates in the world -- has shown a nearly five percent annual decline since 2000.

Part of this improvement, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, is due to better prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS, the authors said.

Global health programmes and more insecticide-treated bednets to combat malaria have also played a role.

For , improved education among women of reproductive age alone accounted for more than half of the decline, according to an earlier study by the same team.

But the ambitious 2015 goals will still remain beyond reach at current rates of progress, the researchers warned.

"If the world is going to achieve these (MDG) goals, we need to see immediate, concerted action on the part of governments, donors and bilateral agencies," said Rafal Loranzo, a professor at IHME and lead author of the study.

Explore further: Death rates in newborns remain shockingly high in Africa and India

Related Stories

Death rates in newborns remain shockingly high in Africa and India

August 30, 2011
Neonatal mortality -- deaths in newborns, aged 3 weeks and under -- has declined in all regions of the world over the past two decades but in 2009, more than half of all neonatal deaths occurred in five countries—India, ...

Recommended for you

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

Experts devise plan to slash unnecessary medical testing

October 17, 2017
Researchers at top hospitals in the U.S. and Canada have developed an ambitious plan to eliminate unnecessary medical testing, with the goal of reducing medical bills while improving patient outcomes, safety and satisfaction.

No evidence that widely marketed technique to treat leaky bladder/prolapse works

October 16, 2017
There is no scientific evidence that a workout widely marketed to manage the symptoms of a leaky bladder and/or womb prolapse actually works, conclude experts in an editorial published online in the British Journal of Sports ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.