Four million of the poorest children in the world have died needlessly over the past 10 years because governments are ‘turning a blind eye’ to those most in need, said a leading charity.
Overall, fewer children are dying in developing countries but global targets to cut child deaths will be missed if developing countries do not focus on helping the very poorest communities, Save the Children said.
The UK’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said it was a ‘global scandal’ that one child dies every three seconds.
Nine million children a year are dying ‘preventable deaths’ often because of malnutrition and a lack of basic healthcare, said the charity’s report, A Fair Chance of Life. But the effect is made worse by many countries helping richer communities rather than the very poorest, because it is easier.
"Some 8.8 million newborns and children still die each year," said Save the Children's Carolyn Miles. "Too often, where children live or how much money their parents have determines whether they will receive proven, low-cost, lifesaving care. We must all work to end these fatal inequities − not only between countries, but within countries themselves."
Save the Children put out its report two weeks ahead of a United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's), which the United States and all countries adopted in 2000. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other leaders will launch a new Global Strategy on Women's and Children's Health to drive forward progress on the child and maternal health goals.
Save the Children’s research comes out alongside a study for the United Nations Children’s Fund called Narrowing the Gaps to Meet the Goals, and its flagship report Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity. The reports stress that targeting the most disadvantaged children isn’t just the right thing to do, but will also work and could save the lives of millions of children.
"It is a disgrace that some countries are 'ticking a box' on child mortality without ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable children benefit equally,” said Jasmine Whitbread, Save the Children International's chief executive.
"Nearly nine million children under the age of five die every year - many of them from easily preventable or treatable illnesses - just because they can't get to a doctor or because their parents can't afford food that is nutritious enough to keep them alive.
"Yet many governments are turning a blind eye to these deaths simply because it is easier or more convenient to help children from better-off groups.
"Every child has a right to survival and every government has an obligation to protect them. What's more, our research shows that prioritising the poor is one of the surest ways countries will reduce child mortality."