Death rates of young children have dropped to record lows in developing countries. Experts say there are two main reasons for the decrease. They are improved government action, and simple protective health measures. Experts say the two have helped narrow the death rates between the richest and the poorest families.
The United Nations says 12.7 million children under the age of five died in 1990. By comparison, U.N. officials say about 6.3 million young children died last year. That is a huge drop, but still represents about 17,000 deaths every day.
Eran Bendavid is a population health expert at Stanford University in California. He credits simple things for the sharp drop in deaths among low and moderate-income countries. They include malarial bed nets and oral rehydration salts for treating diarrheal diseases.
“The poorest of the poor – we’re talking about countries where the people live or $1 or $2 per day on average – have seen enormous declines in mortality. Their children are surviving at rates they have never seen before in those contexts.”
Eran Bendavid worked with other researchers at Stanford’s School of Medicine on a study. They used population and health studies to investigate child mortality rates in 54 countries. The research involved information about 1.2 million women in more than 929,000 families.
The investigators compared death rates between 2000 and 2007 with records from 2008 to 2012. They found under-five death rates fell 4.3 deaths for every 1,000 live births among poor families. Among middle-income families, rates fell 3.36 deaths for everyone 1,000 live births. Among the wealthiest families, rates fell 2.06 deaths per 1,000 births.
Eran Bendavid says that in countries with good governance, international aid can reach people who need it. But he found problems in corrupt or lawless nations. There, the number of child deaths increased during the same period.
“Now, if you have Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, if you have situations like you have now in Pakistan where aid workers are being vilified and attacked for providing vaccines, you know, where you have a governance that really has no ability to provide the basic conditions for public health to work, basic safety, the legitimacy for health workers to go and do what they need to do, then even those simple and basic and easy interventions can’t be accomplished.”
The study noted a major improvement in the child death rate between rich and poor in several countries. They include Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Ghana.
The findings were reported in the journal Pediatrics.
I’m Caty Weaver.