As Heads of States gather in Addis Ababa for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU, they should reaffirm their commitment to the reduction of child mortality across the continent,
noted Save the Children on Thursday May 23rd at a press briefing held at the African Union Commission. While acknowledging that great efforts were made in reducing the number of children who die of preventable causes in Africa, the aid agency said that much more must be done to meet the fourth Millennium Development Goal; the promise all countries made to reduce child mortality by two thirds by 2015. According to the State of the World’s Mothers report released earlier this month by the organization, mothers and babies in sub-Saharan Africa face the greatest risk. The bottom ten countries with the worst case of child death are from sub-Saharan Africa. In this specific region statistics show that 1 in 30 women dies of pregnancy and birth related complications, while 1 out 7 babies die before their fifth birthday. Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are placed at the bottom as the worst place to be a mother or a child. While it looks grim for the sub-Saharan region, there are other countries on the continent that have been successful such as Malawi, which has been able to reduce its newborn mortality by 44 percent. Other countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Mali are said to have made important policy changes to improve their health system. “Between 1990-2000 and 2000-2011, Africa doubled the rate at which it reduced child mortality. There are many individual stories of success, with countries such as Malawi and Rwanda, despite enormous odds, being on track to meet MDG4,” said Hussein Halane, Save the Children’s East Africa Regional Director and Head of Delegation to the AU Summit. Regarding Ethiopia, the report states that more than half of the women do not receive skilled care during birth; hence the country is ranked sixth for countries with most first-day deaths. “More needs to be done if the dreams and aspirations of the OAU/AU founders for a better Africa are to be truly realized. Despite counting for around 15% of the world’s population, Africa accounts for nearly half of the world’s child deaths. At the current rate of progress, Africa won’t meet Millennium Development Goal 4. We need to redouble our efforts to meet our collective promises, and ensure that children growing up over the next fifty years are given the opportunity to meet their full potential,” Halane further said. Malnutrition is an underlying cause of over a third of child death and can cost a country 2-3 percent of its national income each year. Malnutrition also leaves a total of 60 million children stunted yearly. Studies show that for every dollar spent on key interventions for reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, about USD 20 in benefit can be generated through the production of healthy children who will later become productive adults.