Statistics has shown that there has been a great reduction in child mortality rate in Africa over the past decade. Even sub-Saharan Africa which has the world’s highest rate of child mortality has dramatically improved the health of its children over the past decade. In fact, the rate of improvement in Africa is accelerating – it has doubled in the past decade, compared to the previous decade.
The latest annual report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization found a dramatic decline in the global death rate of children under the age of five. Last year, there were 7.6 million child deaths in the world, far less than the 12 million children who died in 1990. This means that 12,000 fewer children are dying every day.
The most striking thing is that of the five countries with the greatest absolute reduction in child mortality last year, four of them were impoverished African countries: Niger, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
Convincingly, the improvements were largely due to the kinds of policies that foreign aid has targeted: better access to health care for newborns, improved access to vaccines, cleaner water, better nutrition and better treatment of childhood diseases.
Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, said in a statement this week, “This is proof that investing in children’s health is money well spent, and a sign that we need to accelerate that investment through the coming years.”
There are so many things that contribute to the improvements aside from foreign aid. They include: Expansion of Africa’s economy at a rapid pace for most of the past decade, decline in the number of wars, and reformation of policies in the right direction. In Sierra Leone, for example, the government this year eliminated all fees for child and maternal health, leading to a substantial decline in child mortality.
UNICEF executive director, Anthony Lake, said, “The news that the rate of child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is declining twice as fast as it was a decade ago shows that we can make progress even in the poorest places.”
There are still huge challenges ahead. Despite the improvements, the situation in famine-hit Somalia remains gloomy. The latest UN figures show that Somalia now has the world’s highest rate of child mortality: 180 deaths for every 1,000 live births.
Rozanne Chorlton, the UNICEF representative in Somalia, said, “We need a serious investment in Somalia’s future to make sure that anything like the current crisis never happens again.”