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Reduction in child mortality not enough to meet 2015 target

Under-5 mortality is down 50% on the year 2000, but the target of 48 per 1,000 by 2015 is looking increasingly unlikely
Under-5 mortality is down 50% on the year 2000, but the target of 48 per 1,000 by 2015 is looking increasingly unlikely

In 2000, world governments agreed the Millennium Development Goals, setting ambitious targets for improving the lives of their citizens. Sadly, it looks like many of them will be missed.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were agreed in 2000 by all members of the UN and focus on delivering broad improvements to people's quality of life around the world. The 8 goals focus on very different things, such as promoting gender equality, tackling climate change and reducing child mortality. The deadline for the goals is 2015, so most countries should now be reaching their final targets.

Sadly, on a global scale at least, most of the goals are likely to be missed next year. Whilst the last annual assessment by the UN finds that significant progress has been made in many areas, the rate of improvement in most is not fast enough to hit the 2015 goal. For example, though large gains have been made on tackling maternal mortality, most countries are still failing to provide adequate care for large sections of their populations.

Badly off track

The target which is the furthest of track, is the goal of reducing deaths of under-5s by two thirds compared to 1990 levels. Though there has been a 50% decline in infant mortality, to 48 deaths per thousand, this is a long way off the target of 30 that is the goal for next year. This is a worrying statistic, especially when so many of these deaths are avoidable.

The majority of the 6.6 million deaths that occurred in 2012 were from the common infectious disease, like pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhoea. All three of these conditions are treatable or preventable, so it is worrying that they are still the cause of the high rate of child mortality. Just as concerning, nearly 3 million of these deaths occurred during the first 28 days of life. This is a vital period for mother and baby, so one would expect there to be a particular effort to come provide care during this time.

Regional differences

Whilst on a global scale child mortality is unlikely to meet the MDG next year, in many regions countries are actually hitting the targets that have been set for them. For example, Latin America, East Asia and North Africa are all on track to hit the target or have already exceeded it. On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania are lagging far behind these other regions. The disparities point to differences in the effectiveness of the measures employed in each case.

The UN stresses that the success of so many countries in hitting their targets should be taken as a positive example for those who are still lagging behind. As Fleur Anderson, global head of campaigns at WaterAid, tells the Guardian, ensuring everyone has access to clean water and sanitation - essential for tackling infant mortality - is a realisable goal for the first time in history. However, it will take renewed political dedication and will to see it through. An important message in relation to all the MDGs.

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