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According to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), an estimated 5 million children died before their fifth birthday and another 2.1 million children and youth aged between 5-24 years lost their lives in 2021. The report also found that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with equitable access to and high-quality maternal, newborn, adolescent, and child health care.
UNICEF Director of the Division of Data Analytics, Planning, and Monitoring, Vidhya Ganesh stated, “Such widespread, preventable tragedy should never be accepted as inevitable. Progress is possible with stronger political will and targeted investment in equitable access to primary health care for every woman and child.”
While the report shows some positive outcomes with a lower risk of death across all ages globally since 2000, the global under-five mortality rate fell by 50 percent since the start of the century, while mortality rates in older children and youth dropped by 36 percent, and the stillbirth rate decreased by 35 percent. However, gains have reduced significantly since 2010, and 54 countries will fall short of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals target for under-five mortality.
Without swift action to improve health services, almost 59 million children and youth will die before 2030, and nearly 16 million babies will be lost to stillbirth. The reports also show that children continue to face vastly different chances of survival based on where they are born, with sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia shouldering the heaviest burden.
Dr. Anshu Banerjee, Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health and Ageing at the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted, “It is grossly unjust that a child’s chances of survival can be shaped just by their place of birth, and that there are such vast inequities in their access to life-saving health services. Children everywhere need strong primary health care systems that meet their needs and those of their families, so that – no matter where they are born – they have the best start and hope for the future.”