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UNICEF: Fewer Children Under Age 5 Dying from Preventable Diseases

A report by the UN Children's Fund shows a marked decline in the number of child deaths from preventable diseases since 1990. But in sub-Saharan Africa, child mortality rates remain high. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The new estimates show a 27 percent decline in the under-five mortality rate from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 68 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.

UNICEF spokeswoman Miranda Eeles says this is good news, but more needs to be done.

"We are pleased because it is a decline. It is a decline from last year, as well. But, at the same time, if you think that 9.2 million children are still dying of mostly preventable causes, then it is just unacceptable," said Eeles.

UNICEF says many more children's lives could be saved in developing countries, if certain basic interventions are followed. These include early and exclusive breast-feeding, measles immunization, Vitamin A supplements, the use of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

UNICEF says a number of countries have made particularly good progress in reducing under-five mortality, including Lao, Bangladesh, Bolivia and Nepal. It says there also has been significant progress in parts of Eritrea.

The report shows Eritrea's under-five mortality rate declined by 52 percent between 1990 and 2007. And, it says, child deaths in Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, and Ethiopia have gone down by more than 40 percent across the same period.

However, Eeles tells VOA, the highest child mortality is still found in Africa.

"Sub-Saharan Africa, it is the most troubled region," she said. "he region accounted for almost half, that is around 48.9 percent, so nearly 50 percent of the world's death among children under five. But, at the same time, they are just accounting for 22 percent of global births. It is also the region where the under-five mortality rate is in excess of 100 per 1,000. So, that means that in 2007, one in every seven children failed to reach their fifth birthday in that year."

The situation is particularly grim in Sierra Leone, which has the worst under-five mortality rate in the world. UNICEF figures show 262 out of every 1,000 children die before age five.

The report finds under-nutrition caused more than one-third of the 9.2 million global child deaths. UNICEF says more children will survive, if more effort is made to make sure children and women in the developing world get the nutrients and vitamins they need to stay healthy.