Health workers contributing to halving the number of global child deaths
According to a joint report by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division, an estimated 6.6 million children died in 2012, compared to 12 million in 1990. In all, it is estimated that approximately 90 million lives have been saved as a result of this decline.
The report, entitled “2013 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed”, spells out the factors contributing to the reduction - more effective and affordable treatments, innovative ways of delivering critical interventions to the poor and excluded, improvements in nutrition and maternal education, and sustained political commitment.
Health workers have also played a critical role in this. Look at Zambia and Uganda, for example. They are two of the 15 low-income countries to have achieved reductions in under-five mortality of more than 100 deaths per 1,000 live births since 1990. In both countries, hundreds of health workers have been trained to deliver emergency obstetric and newborn care. Community health workers, known as Village Health Teams in Uganda and Safe Motherhood Action Groups in Zambia, have been actively promoting safe deliveries in health facilities as well as collecting data to track progress. Plans are in place to scale up the programme in both Uganda and Zambia and to expand it to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the gains, child survival continues to be a pressing issue – about 18,000 children still die needlessly every day, largely from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.
Without renewed commitments towards the health workforce, the world will not meet its child survival goal (Millennium Development Goal 4) and 35 million children will die between 2015 and 2028 who would otherwise have lived had we met the goal on time.