by Carmie O. Carpio/Asianjournal.com
MANILA — An average of 32 Filipino children (per 1,000 live births) die before the age of five based on a UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report, making the Philippines the 86th among 190 countries with the highest under-five mortality rate.
Overall, more than 27,000 children under the age of five die each day around the world, mostly from preventable causes, based on The State of the World’s Children Report 2008: Child Survival, UNICEF’s flagship publication. It was presented by outgoing UNICEF representative to the Philippines Dr. Nicholas Alipui, after which it was handed over to the Philippine government, last March 14 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.
“We speak of the children who died because child mortality is a sensitive indicator of a country’s development. It is a telling evidence of the country’s priorities and values,” said Dr. Alipui.
In the developing world, Sierra Leone, Angola and Afghanistan have the highest under-five mortality rate, while Cuba, Sri Lanka and the Syrian Arab Republic have the lowest.
Neonatal causes topped the major causes for underfive mortality, followed by pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles and AIDS. According to the report, the Philippines has a neonatal mortality rate of 15 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Dr. Alipui also mentioned that roughly ten Filipino mothers die everyday from giving birth. Out of ten children who die before their fifth birthday, seven are infants. Half of the under-five mortality happens within the first month of life.
“In a country where child mortality rates have steadily declined in the past decade, the alarming number of women and newborns dying during and just after the birthing process belies the progress achieved so far in child survival,” he said.
In the report, the Philippines has a maternal mortality ratio of 170 deaths per 100,000 live births. The lifetime risk of death during pregnancy or childbirth is one in 140.
Dr. Alipui cited the importance of investing in the health of children and their mothers, saying it is not only a human rights imperative but a sound economic decision that could surely lead to a country’s bright future.
In the report, the UNICEF shares strategies in promoting child survival such as supporting families in improving their care practices for children, providing a continuum of care for mothers and their children, and strengthening community partnerships and health systems.
Speci f ical ly, the UNICEF believes that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and correct weaning practices, the use of bed nets to protect children from malaria-carrying mosquito bites, and the use of oral re-hydration salts to fight diarrhea will contribute considerably to the decline in child mortality today.
Over the years, the number of child deaths has been halved around the world, from 20 million in 1960 to 9.7 million in 2006. In 2000, under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), world leaders declared that they will reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five in 2015.
Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who officially presented the government’s response to the report, welcomed UNICEF’s recommendations for the promotion of child survival.
Like Dr. Alipui, he expressed confidence that the country can inch closer towards the MDG for children, especially that the Philippines is one of 60 priority countries whose progress on reducing child deaths would be closely monitored.
After the report’s launching, Dr. Alipui was awarded with citation for the services he has rendered as country representative for UNICEF for four years.
He expressed his thanks for all the support UNICEF has gained in its endeavors in the country, particularly in Mindanao.
The launching was attended by various child advocacy groups. TV host Bianca Gonzalez, a child advocate herself,hosted the event.