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Historic Progress Cited On Childhood Mortality, But Work Remains

A doctor places a newborn baby into an incubator at the Lady Aitchison hospital in Lahore, Pakistan.
A new report by the London-based Save The Children foundation says the world has made "unprecedented" progress reducing child mortality over the last generation.

But it also warns the international community is still falling short of meeting the UN's Millennium Development goal on the issue, which envisions cutting child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

"We have seen child mortality halve in a generation," Ben Hewitt, Save The Children's operations director, said. "That is historic progress, and we can now actually talk about the end of preventable child deaths in the next generation. So I think people are getting wise to that, they are seeing that this is something that can change and change within their lifetime."

The report, issued on October 23, looks at 75 countries and finds that the number of children under the age of 5 dying of preventable causes has fallen from 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million last year.

Hewitt said a goal of the report is to compare countries and regions within countries to find out if progress is even and sustainable.

"You have very fast progress in reducing child mortality in a country like Bangladesh that has lower economic growth than a country like India at the moment," Hewitt said. "So it is interesting -- what is going on in a country? What are the policies? And are they for all of the country or are they just benefiting certain groups? These are very important questions to ask."

The report finds that the African nation of Niger has made the most "striking" progress, reducing preventable child deaths by more than half since 1990 despite droughts and a chronic lack of resources, Hewitt said.

"Countries that are ranking higher on the index interestingly are countries like Niger where they've reduced mortality -- but they are doing it across the whole country," Hewitt said. "So they are providing free services to pregnant women and children for all of the population."

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters
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