NEW YORK (September 13, 2012) — The number of under-five child deaths has dropped more than 40% since 1990—a figure that demonstrates it is possible to radically reduce child mortality, says Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “This proves that the simple, affordable interventions championed by UNICEF can make a real difference in children’s lives.”
Still, says Stern, this remarkable progress “doesn’t change the fact that 19,000 children still die every day of things we can prevent. This is a number that can—and should—be ZERO.”
In an effort to accelerate progress on reducing child deaths, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF is ramping up its efforts to spread awareness and raise funds to broaden UNICEF’s global impact. “New vaccines and technologies mean reaching ZERO preventable child deaths is actually possible, but we need Americans to join us in making these real, lifesaving solutions available to all children,” says Stern.
On September 17, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF will launch “Believe in ZERO,” a national ad campaign aimed at generating interest in UNICEF’s efforts to eliminate preventable child deaths and to provide children across the globe with the opportunity to thrive. The campaign, which includes national film, radio and print advertising, is available online at www.unicefusa.org. “At the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, we believe in a world where ZERO children die from unclean water or the lack of a 50 cent vaccine,” says Stern.
The number of under-five child deaths has dropped from 12 million in 1990 to an estimated 6.9 million in 2011, according to data released today by UNICEF. In the last decade alone, progress on reducing child deaths has accelerated, with the annual rate of decline in the global under-five mortality rate rising from 1.8% in 1990-2000 to 3.2% in 2000-2011.
“The global decline in under-five mortality is a significant success that is a testament to the work and dedication of many, including governments, donors, agencies and families,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “But there is also unfinished business: Millions of children under five are still dying each year from largely preventable causes for which there are proven, affordable interventions.”
UNICEF’s 2012 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, released today, combines mortality estimates with insights into the top killers of children under five and the high-impact strategies that are needed to accelerate progress. Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which together accounted for more than 80 percent of all under-five deaths in 2011. On average, one in every nine children in sub-Saharan Africa dies before reaching the age of five. To read the full UNICEF report, visit http://www.unicefusa.org/APR2012.pdf.
According to UNICEF, more than half the pneumonia and diarrhea deaths—which together account for almost 30% of under-five deaths worldwide—occur in just four countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. Infectious diseases are characteristically diseases of inequity, disproportionately affecting poor and vulnerable populations who lack access to basic treatment and prevention interventions. These deaths are largely preventable.
UNICEF’s report underscores that neither a country’s regional affiliation nor economic status need be a barrier to reducing child deaths. Low-income countries such as Bangladesh, Liberia and Rwanda, middle-income countries such as Brazil, Mongolia and Turkey, and high-income countries such as Oman and Portugal, have all made dramatic gains, lowering their under-five mortality rates by more than two-thirds between 1990 and 2011.
Since June, more than half the world’s governments have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival under the banner of A Promise Renewed. Among five priority actions, partners pledge to accelerate progress by focusing on areas where the challenge for child survival is the greatest.
Greater efforts are particularly required in populous countries with high mortality. In addition to medical and nutritional factors, improvements in other areas—notably education, access to clean water and adequate sanitation, adequate food, child protection and women’s empowerment—will also improve prospects for child survival and development.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when zero children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.