29 June 2014

Nigeria: Children More Likely to Die in Nigeria Than in Any Other Country Participating in World Cup

Photo: Phil Moore/Save the Children
Mother and baby in Guinea Bissau.

Nigeria has the highest rate of child deaths among all the nations represented at the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup, a new scorecard of the 32 countries competing in the tournament has shown.

According to the scorecard, Nigeria has reduced child mortality by only 42 percent since 1990.

For every 1,000 births in Nigeria, 124 children will die before they reach age five, the report showed.

"The World Cup scorecard shows that when governments prioritize child health, dramatic progress can be made," said Naveen Thacker, president-elect of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association.

"Leaders from government, civil society and the business community must unite to ensure that preventable child deaths are soon consigned to the history books" he added.

However, the report says all countries have made significant progress in reducing childhood mortality since 1990, when the World Cup was hosted by Italy.

Yet, not all countries have progressed equally. This year's host, Brazil, leads the way with a 77 percent reduction in deaths among children under age 5 since 1990.

The ranking, "Child Mortality: What's the Score?" is being released in the run-up to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Partners Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 30 - July 1.

At the conference, global leaders will call for accelerated action to improve the health of children, newborns and mothers everywhere.

"There are two main reasons for the reduction of child mortality in Brazil: expanding access to primary health care and Bolsa Família, the world's largest cash transfer program," said Paulo Vicente Bonilha de Almeida, child health coordinator with the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

"The National Immunization Program increased immunization rates among Brazilian children, and the National Breastfeeding Policy more than quadrupled breastfeeding."

Since 1988, Brazil's constitution has guaranteed its citizens universal health coverage, so that they may access life-saving health services regardless of ability to pay.

Bolsa Família provides cash transfers to poor families in exchange for ensuring that children receive vaccines and attend school. Today, for every 1,000 births in Brazil, 14 children will die before their fifth birthday - down from 62 in 1990, the report further revealed.

Unfortunately, like Nigeria, not every country is doing well as Brazil in saving children's lives.

A major challenge to saving children's lives is that nearly half of all deaths in children under age five occur in the first 28 days of life.

A prevalent myth is that to save newborns, sophisticated hospitals and intensive care units are needed.

"Simple low-cost solutions could help every country dramatically reduce newborn deaths," said Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health inCanada.

"For example, wiping the umbilical cord with a disinfectant reduces deaths by half. Putting the baby onto the mother's chest and encouraging breastfeeding also help prevent life-threatening infections."

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