Child mortality gap is growing

Posted: 22 July 2003

The gap between child mortality rates in rich and poor countries is growing increasingly wide, the medical journal The Lancet reports in the latest of a series of articles on child health.

"Gaps in child mortality between rich and poor countries are unacceptably wide and in some areas are becoming wider, as are the gaps between wealthy and poor children within most countries," the authors of the article wrote.

"Poor children are more likely than their better-off peers to be exposed to health risks, and they have less resistance to disease because of under-nutrition and other hazards typical in poorcommunities", they add.

In high-income countries, the researchers found, six of every 1,000 children die before they turn age five. The rate is 88 per 1,000 in thedeveloping world. In the world's poorest countries, 120 per 1,000 children under five die.

Between 1970 and 2000, according to the journal's research findings, mortality for children under five fell by more than 71 per cent in rich nations. Low-income countries, however, saw a reduction during the same period of only 40 per cent.

The study calls for health initiatives targeted at poor communities to make gains against the trend.

An article in the previous issue of The Lancet found that child survival interventions are failing to reach the children who need them most.

The study said that in the 42 countries with 90 per cent of the child deaths in 2000, the only intervention to reach most children was breastfeeding of infants. About two-thirds of children under five received the measles vaccine, and among the 22 sub-Saharan African countries with malaria problems, fewer than two per cent of children slept under insecticide-treated nets.

The first two articles in the series found, among other things, that six million of the 10 million annual deaths of children under five arepreventable.

Source: Nature