Thursday, March 10, 2016

Save the Children..and their mothers and fathers, too

In the time it takes you to read this blog post, more than 30 children will die from causes that could have been prevented or treated, more if you are a slow reader. Children worldwide face a lethal combination of inequality, injustice, and gender discrimination. They deserve better.

Every year, more than one million children die the day they are born, and another million die within their first week of life. Almost half of all child deaths occur in the neo-natal period (the first 28 days) – and the share is rising. The vast majority of these deaths could be averted. Yet, if progress continues at its current rate, there will still be some 3.6 million such deaths per year by 2030, the year the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs adopted by the United Nations last September) pledges to eliminate “preventable child deaths”

India accounts for one-fifth of child deaths worldwide. Nearly all women from the richest 20% of households enjoy prenatal care and skilled attendants at delivery; coverage rates for the poorest are less than 10% – worse than in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Economic growth has done nothing to reduce the disparity.

Each year, some 36 million women in low- and middle-income countries give birth without a skilled attendant. An even greater number of children do not receive a post-natal health check. The vast majority of these women and children have one thing in common: they are poor. Indeed, being born to a low-income mother raises the risk of child mortality by a factor of 2-3 in much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Survey evidence points to cost as a major barrier excluding poor women and children from health care. Forcing desperately poor women to pay for maternal and child health care is a prescription for inequality, inefficiency, and child deaths. Wealth-based disparities in health outcomes extend far beyond pregnancy and birth. Children born to poor mothers are less likely to be immunized or taken to clinics for treatment of potentially fatal diseases, such as pneumonia and diarrhea.