Wed, May 07, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Millions of kids die from treatable illnesses

SAVE THE CHILDRENThe charity said poor youngsters are twice as likely to die than their richer counterparts, as it praised vaccination efforts by the Philippines and Peru

AGENCIES , MANILA AND WASHINGTON

More than 200 million children worldwide under age five do not get basic health care, leading to nearly 10 million deaths annually from treatable ailments like diarrhea and pneumonia, Save the Children said yesterday.

Nearly all of the deaths occur in the developing world, with poor children facing twice the risk of dying compared to richer children, a global report by the US-based humanitarian group said.

Eight out of 10 bottom-ranked countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, where four out of five mothers are likely to lose a child in their lifetime, Save the Children said.

The bright spots among 55 developing countries are the Philippines, Peru and South Africa — all surveyed for the first time. Indonesia and Turkmenistan tied for fourth.

Laos, Yemen, Chad, Somalia and Ethiopia were found doing the worst among developing countries, the report said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and Peru are doing the best job of vaccinating children and treating them for critical diseases compared to other developing nations, the report said.

With 84 percent of its children having these basic health needs unmet, Ethiopia placed on the bottom of the list in the report issued by the US-based group.

Save the Children also ranked 146 countries for how good they are for mothers and children. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Denmark topped the list. Niger was last. The US placed 27th, one spot below last year’s ranking.

The rankings were based on data that included immunization against childhood diseases such as malaria and tetanus, access to treatment for leading childhood killers such as diarrhea and pneumonia, prenatal care and other factors.

In the Philippines, 31 percent of children under five are missing out on such basic health care, the smallest proportion of any country in the report. Peru was next at 32 percent, then South Africa (34 percent) and Indonesia (35 percent).

“The Philippines nearly cut its child death rate in half since 1990. The health ministry, through USAID [US Agency for International Development] support, launched a number of health initiatives in 1989, including a push to increase access to oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea,” said David Oot, who heads the group’s global health programs.

But inequities were apparent, the group said.

The poorest Filipino children were 3.2 times more likely to go without basic health measures. And Peru, despite placing second on the list, had the widest gap in child death rates between the rich and poor — with the poorest children 7.4 times more likely to die than the richest.

Ethiopia was last in the rankings, followed by Somalia (82 percent), Chad (78 percent), Yemen (71 percent) and Laos (69 percent), the report said.

Some countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, were not included in the report due to insufficient data, Save the Children said.

It recommended more funding for basic health systems.

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