Niger Makes Dramatic Gains in Reducing Child Deaths, says Save the Children Report

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WESTPORT, Conn. (Oct. 23, 2013) — One of the world's poorest countries, Niger, ranks highest in a new report by Save the Children which evaluates countries' progress in tackling preventable child deaths in an equitable and sustainable way.

While Niger's under-five child mortality rate remains high in comparison to many other countries, Niger is on track to achieve the fourth UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4) to reduce preven'table under-five mortality rates by two-thirds in 2015. But what sets Niger apart from other countries that have reduced their under-five mortality rate by two-thirds is Niger is meeting a critical "triple bottom line"-reducing child mortality and doing it in an equitable and sustainable way. This means that Niger's progress has benefited children across all income groups, boys and girls equally, and in rural areas, as well as urban slums. Moreover, Niger's success has happened in spite of scarce resources and recurring droughts.

In contrast, Save the Children's "Lives on the Line" report reveals that other countries that have made dramatic gains in child health — like Bangladesh and Cambodia — risk seeing this progress stall unless they increase equitable coverage of key health services that save lives. (Download full report or download executive summary)

The report also highlights that progress in reducing malnutrition, an underlying cause of 45 percent of child deaths, and newborn deaths, which account for 44 percent of all under-five child deaths, remain sluggish –critical factors in efforts to further reduce child deaths.

Save the Children's President and CEO Carolyn Miles said: "We just can't get there without addressing newborns, malnutrition and completing the task of preventing and treating the most common causes of child death — pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria — especially in poor communities. Ending preventable child deaths is an achievable goal, but world leaders must put in place policies and programs that ensure that children of all backgrounds have an equal chance to survive. Niger's political commitment and investments in child health have paid off in progress to date, and have set the stage for further reductions in child mortality over the longer-term."

The report introduces a new approach to assessing efforts in 75 developing countries to reduce child deaths. For the first time, the findings show both how quickly progress is being made towards this UN goal, but also whether progress is equitable — across different social and economic groups — and sustainable, measured in terms of political will and stability.

Niger's success in reducing child mortality

Niger has seen impressive increases in immunization and bednet coverage, treatment of pneumonia, and exclusive breastfeeding — made possible in part due to access to free health care for pregnant women and children, nutrition programs and extension of basic health services to hard-to-reach populations. Collectively, these factors have contributed to rapid reduction in its under-five child mortality rate, from 326 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 1990, to 114 deaths per 1,000 in 2012 across the board — a remarkable 65 percent reduction.

In some regions, even as they are making progress overall, inequality is getting worse. In sub-Saharan Africa — an area with half of all child deaths — the gaps between rich and poor children widened between 1998 and 2008. The report also shows that disparities in child mortality with girls experiencing higher rates of mortality than boys are worsening across regions by an average of one percentage point annually.

Evidence suggests that four million additional lives could have been saved over a 10-year period in 40 high-burden countries, if progress had been equal in all income groups.

Save the Children is calling upon national leaders to:

  • Scale up high-impact interventions, such as immunization, treatment of childhood pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, and greater attention to newborn health and malnutrition
  • Implement national healthcare plans that reach every child, including newborns, with the objective of reaching full coverage by 2030
  • Launch campaign efforts to reduce malnutrition so that every child has the nutrition they need to survive and thrive
  • Increase public spending on health and target high-impact services and practices, and on "reaching the unreached" – those populations most often missed by existing health services

Save the Children is calling on the U.S. government to:

  • Continue to provide global leadership and robust funding for addressing maternal, newborn and child health issues and nutrition
  • Fulfill commitments made to addressing nutrition at the Nutrition for Growth conference, including reducing stunting by 2 million by 2017
  • Increase efforts to ensure that a skilled health worker is within reach of every child, and announce concrete ways the U.S. plans to do this at the Third Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Brazil in November 2013

Save the Children is the leading independent organization for children in need, with programs in 120 countries, including the United States. We aim to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children, and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives by improving their health, education and economic opportunities. In times of acute crisis, we mobilize rapid assistance to help children recover from the effects of war, conflict and natural disasters. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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