The World Health Organization says there has been a sharp drop in the
number of deaths among children under age five. The just released
report, World Health Statistics 2009, shows 27 percent fewer children
died in 2007, the last year for which statistics were compiled, than in
The World Health Statistics Report shows about
nine million children died in 2007 compared to 12.5 million in 1990.
It says some countries are making good progress toward meeting the U.N.
Millennium Development Goal of cutting child deaths by two-thirds by
2015. But it says many other countries, particularly in sub-Saharan
Africa, will fail to reach that target.
This year's report
focuses on how well countries are doing in reaching eight-stated
Millennium Development Goals, including cutting poverty by half and
reducing child and maternal mortality. The results are mixed.
example, the report says progress is being made in bringing down child
deaths, but there has been little or no movement in maternal and
It says an estimated 37 percent of deaths
among children occur in the first month of life, and most in the first
week of life. It says most infant deaths happen in regions where
maternal mortality rates are the highest.
Coordinator in WHO's
department of Health Statistics and Informatics, Carla Abou-Zahr, says
there are a whole range of issues that hold countries back.
cannot say it is just lack of resources or it is just lack of
commitment," said Abou-Zahr. "Usually there are very weak institutions
in many of these countries. Many of them are emerging from conflicts.
And, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, especially in Eastern and
Southern Africa are facing major problems of HIV, which has had a huge
impact on especially child mortality, life expectancy in general. So,
that is being a factor that is constraining for the progress for those
But Abou-Zahr hastens to add that countries in
Africa do not present a uniformly bleak picture. For instance, she
says signs of improvement can be seen in places such as Tanzania and
The report argues building a health system that is
efficient and really works is not purely a financial matter. Many
elements are involved.
But WHO Health Statistics and
Informatics Department Director Ties Boerma says money talks when it
comes to providing good health.
"If we look at per-capita
health expenditure, in the low income countries, it is $22 per
capita," said Boerma. "In the high-income countries, it is $4,012.
Another one. Doctors for 10,000 people. In Africa, there are two
doctors for 10,000 people. In the European region, there are 32
doctors for 10,000 people."
In one of its many statistical
graphs, the WHO study shows money can mean the difference between life
and death. It notes three out of 1,000 children under age five die in
Iceland, Sweden and Finland compared to 262 child deaths per 1,000 live
births in Sierra Leone.