China’s under-five death rate has almost halved since 1990, yet
approximately 415,000 (4.3 percent) of 9.7 million children who
perish around the globe each year reside in China. This figure rang
alarm bells about child survival at the Chinese launch of UNICEF’s
flagship report – The State of the World’s Children
“Further reduction in the number of deaths among children under
five years of age may be in doubt if life-saving supplies
integrated with regular health services are not made available to
more children,” stated the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF’s flagship
report The State of the World’s Children 2008: Child
According to the report, the annual number of child deaths has
been halved, from roughly 20 million in 1960 to 9.7 million in
2006. “Despite progress, the world in not yet on track to achieve
the Millennium Development Goal target of a two-thirds reduction in
child mortality rates by the year 2015,” warned Dr. Hans Anders
Troedsson, a representative for the World Health Organization’s
(WHO) China branch at the Beijing launch, two days after its global
launch in Geneva.
The report also emphasized several basic strategies that could
help reduce the number of children who die before their fifth
birthday. The document described the impact of interventions such
as exclusive breastfeeding, immunizations, insecticide-treated bed
nets and vitamin A supplementation, all of which have helped to
reduce child mortality in recent years.
“Integrated delivery of these interventions and their promotion
or inclusion through routine community health services for mothers
and their young children increases their coverage and probability
of positive impact even more,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF
executive director, at the Geneva launch for the annual report.
Another UNICEF Representative in China, Dr. Yin Yin New, noted
on Tuesday, “The report advocates combining high-impact, disease
specific interventions - such as exclusive breastfeeding and
vitamin A supplementation – with investment in strong national
health care systems in order to deliver a continuum of maternal and
child health care in villages via local clinics and hospitals.”
“It should be highlighted that China has made encouraging
progress since 1990 as the under-five mortality rate of the country
has almost halved,” said Dr. Troedsson, “but there is still bad
news: China’s newborn and maternal mortality rates in remote rural
areas is two to five times higher than that in urban areas.”
He added that unnecessary deaths among children and their
mothers occur among a large group of the migrant population. “Now
that we have the acknowledgment, a lot of things must be done to
turn this acknowledgment into action,” advocated Dr. Troedsson.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health (MOH) of China show that
the infant mortality rate in China was 17 per thousand in 2006,
less than the average number of other developing countries (54),
but over triple the average of developed countries, according to
The 2006 Joint Review of the Maternal and Child Survival
Strategy in China conducted by MOH with support from UNICEF, WHO
and the UN Population Fund stated that many of China’s remaining
preventable young child deaths occur in poor, remote areas where
access to and uptake of quality services are lacking. In addition
to lack of such access caused by geographic reasons, health
services are out of reach of poor rural families and also
unavailable to many migrants in urban areas.
For instance, hospital delivery coverage in Guizhou and the
Tibet Autonomous Region, two underdeveloped in western China, is 51
and 36 percent respectively, said Wang Linhong, deputy director of
the National Center for Women and Children’s Health of China CDC,
at the Tuesday launch.
Dr. Shi Qi from the Department of Maternal and Children Health
Care and Community Health under the MOH said that almost all the
central budgetary appropriations for medical uses in recent years
were invested in western regions, and the MOH’s working priority is
targeting western regions at present.
A long-term program jointly initiated by the MOH and the
Ministry of Commerce of China in 2000 was carried out in western
provinces and autonomous regions to help reduce the child mortality
rates and maternal mortality, explained Dr. Shi Qi at the launch.
She said that thanks to this program and other endeavors maternal
and child mortality rates in rural areas have declined more rapidly
than those in urban areas.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting January 25, 2008)