Washington Post (09.13.07) - Thursday, September 13, 2007
For the first time, infant mortality has dropped below 10
million deaths worldwide, according to a UNICEF report
released Wednesday. There were 9.7 million infant deaths in
2006. Especially "over the last half-decade," deaths of
children under age five have dropped as the global community
applied health strategies targeting children, said Ann M.
Veneman, UNICEF's executive director.
Among the top killers, neonatal problems accounted for 3.6
million deaths; pneumonia for 1.8 million; diarrhea for 1.6
million; malaria for 0.8 million; AIDS for 0.3 million; and
other causes for 0.9 million. Often these illnesses are
influenced by poverty, malnutrition, and civil conflict.
Last year, there were 72 infant deaths per 1,000 live births,
compared with 93 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990. For much of
the gains, Veneman cited malaria prevention programs, better
diarrhea treatment, and extensive measles vaccinations. There
was also a slight increase in the percentage of women in
developing countries who breastfed (37 percent in 2006, up
from 33 percent in 1996).
Health gains were not globally experienced. There were rapid
declines in infant mortality in Latin America, the Caribbean,
Eastern Europe, and East Asia. But progress was less apparent
in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which accounted for
about half of infant deaths worldwide. In West and Central
Africa, there were 186 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
And in AIDS-prevalent parts of eastern and southern Africa,
there were 131 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.