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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Child mortality 'at record low'
Children being immunised
Millions of lives have been saved by immunisation, Unicef says
Fewer children under the age of five are dying, thanks to immunisation programmes and anti-malaria measures, the UN children's agency, Unicef, says.

Worldwide, the number of young children who died in 2006 dropped below 10 million for the first time, it said.

Measles vaccinations, mosquito nets and increased rates of breast-feeding were said to have contributed to the fall.

However, experts said most of the deaths were preventable and that more needed to be done.

The Unicef figures are based on government-conducted surveys in more than 50 countries in 2005 and 2006.

Unicef said 9.7 million children under five died in 2006, down from almost 13 million in 1990.

The decline was particularly marked in Morocco, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic, where the number of children dying dropped by a third, Unicef said.

The Latin American and Caribbean region is on course to achieve the millennium development goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 - it registered 27 deaths on average for every 1,000 live births in 2006, compared with 55 in 1990.

1990 figures appear in brackets
Sub-Saharan Africa:
4.8m (4.1m)
Eastern/Southern Africa:
1.9m (1.8m)
West and Central Africa:
2.9m (2.4m)
Mid East and North Africa: 0.4m (0.7m)
South Asia:
3.1m (4.7m)
East Asia and Pacific:
0.9m (2m)
Latin America/Caribbean:
0.3m (0.6m)
Central/E Europe and CIS:
0.2m (0.4m)
Industrialised countries:
0.1m (0.1m)
9.7m (12.7m)

The majority of deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (4.8 million) and south Asia (3.1 million).

Rates were highest in west and central Africa, where HIV and Aids are prevalent.

The actual numbers of deaths in many parts of Africa rose, although mortality rates were lower.

Ann Veneman, Unicef's executive director, said that dropping below 10 million was an historic moment, but warned that most of the deaths were preventable.

"We know that lives can be saved when children have access to integrated, community-based health services, backed by a strong referral system," she said.

Peter Salama, Unicef's head of global health, called on the global community to invest another $5bn (2.4bn) to help the UN achieve its millennium development goals.

Millions of deaths could be prevented using currently available health measures, Mr Salama said.

Among these were campaigns to increase childhood immunisations, the distribution of vitamin A supplements and mosquito nets treated with insecticides, drug treatments for children infected with HIV.

In sub-Saharan Africa, deaths from measles have been reduced by 75% due to increased vaccination coverage.

In Vietnam, child mortality dropped by about 40% after 30,000 people were trained as health workers and paid to treat people in their own villages, Unicef said.

Convincing mothers to exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life was also important, the agency said.

Child mortality rates

Vaccinations, mosquito nets and breast feeding all help

Millennium goals: in statistics
05 Sep 07 |  Business
Breastfeeding declines in Asia
20 Jun 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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