SOURCE: Save the Children

May 06, 2008 05:30 ET

Save the Children Reports Over 200 Million Children Lack Basic Health Care

New Study Ranks Philippines First, Ethiopia Last

WESTPORT, CT--(Marketwire - May 6, 2008) - More than 200 million children under age 5 do not get basic health care when they need it, with the poorest children missing out and most at risk of dying, according to the ninth annual State of the World's Mothers report issued today by Save the Children, a U.S.-based global independent humanitarian organization.

The report includes the first-ever Basic Health Care Report Card of 55 developing countries that shows which countries are doing the best and the worst at reaching children with basic health care. Together these countries account for nearly 60 percent of the world's under-5 population and 83 percent of all child deaths worldwide. Basic health care is defined as a package of lifesaving interventions that includes prenatal care, skilled care at childbirth, immunizations and treatment for diarrhea and pneumonia.

Eight of the 55 countries in the Basic Health Care Report Card reach 60 percent or more children under age 5 with basic health care. The Philippines comes out on top of the Report Card. In 30 of the 55 countries, less than half of all young children receive health care, including bottom-ranked Ethiopia, where more than 80 percent of children under age 5 do not receive basic lifesaving care.

Although some countries are doing a good job of reaching all children with basic health care, a closer look shows disparities in health care provided to the poorest children compared to the best-off. Top-ranked Philippines does a good job at reaching all children under 5 with basic health care. Yet, the poorest Filipino children are 3.2 times more likely to go without basic health measures.

The Report Card also looks at child survival rates of 52 countries among children who are better off and those who are very poor. Within countries, poor children are dying in much greater numbers than the best-off children. In 12 of the 55 countries, the poorest children are three or more times more likely to die than the richest children. These countries include Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bolivia, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa and the Philippines. Peru has the widest gap in child death rates between the rich and poor. The poorest Peruvian children are 7.4 times more likely to die than the richest Peruvian children.

"A child's chance of celebrating a fifth birthday should not largely depend on the country or community where he or she is born," said Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, upon issuing the report. "We need to do a better job of reaching the poorest children with basic health measures like vaccines, antibiotics and skilled care at childbirth. These simple measures, while taken for granted in the United States, are not reaching millions of children under age 5, and can determine whether a child lives or dies in poor countries and communities."

To close the child survival gap and save lives, the report recommends a coordinated global effort to train, equip and supply more community health workers who can reach the poorest, most marginalized communities. These health workers, often volunteers, do not need to be highly educated to master the skills needed to deliver basic health care measures. Experts predict that over 60 percent of the nearly 10 million children who die every year could be saved by delivering basic health services through a health facility or community health worker. The report highlights several countries, including India, Nepal and Ethiopia, that are making progress in saving lives through successful community health worker programs.

For more information on the State of the World's Mothers 2008 report, contact Save the Children at 203-221-4233 or view the entire report on our website at www.savethechildren.org.

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