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    Posted June 27, 2014 by

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    New scorecard ranks cup contenders on reducing child mortality since 1990


    Reducing child mortality: Among World Cup countries, Brazil leads in saving children’s lives


    A new scorecard of the 32 countries competing in the 2014 World Cup shows that all have made significant progress in reducing childhood mortality since 1990, when the World Cup was hosted by Italy. However, not all countries have progressed equally. This year’s host, Brazil, leads the way with a 77 percent reduction in deaths among children under age 5 since 1990.


    The ranking, “Child Mortality: What’s the Score?” is being released in the run-up to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Partners Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 30 June-1 July. At the conference, global leaders will call for accelerated action to improve the health of children, newborns and mothers everywhere.


    “There are two main reasons for the reduction of child mortality in Brazil: expanding access to primary health care and Bolsa Família, the world’s largest cash transfer program,” said Paulo Vicente Bonilha de Almeida, child health coordinator with the Brazilian Ministry of Health. “The National Immunization Program increased immunization rates among Brazilian children, and the National Breastfeeding Policy more than quadrupled breastfeeding.”


    Since 1988, Brazil’s constitution has guaranteed its citizens universal health coverage, so that they may access life-saving health services regardless of ability to pay. Bolsa Família provides cash transfers to poor families in exchange for ensuring that children receive vaccines and attend school. Today, for every 1,000 births in Brazil, just 14 children will die before their fifth birthday – down from 62 in 1990.


    Tragically, not every country is doing as well as Brazil in saving children’s lives. For example, although Nigeria has reduced child mortality by 42 percent since 1990, it still has the highest rate of child deaths of all footballing nations in the 2014 World Cup. For every 1,000 births in Nigeria, 124 children will die before they reach age 5.


    “The World Cup scorecard shows that when governments prioritize child health, dramatic progress can be made,” said Naveen Thacker, president-elect of the Asia Pacific Pediatric Association. “Leaders from government, civil society and the business community must unite to ensure that preventable child deaths are soon consigned to the history books.”


    A major challenge to saving children’s lives is that nearly half of all deaths in children under age 5 occur in the first 28 days of life. A prevalent myth is that to save newborns, sophisticated hospitals and intensive care units are needed.


    “Simple low-cost solutions could help every country dramatically reduce newborn deaths,” said Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Canada. “For example, wiping the umbilical cord with a disinfectant reduces deaths by half. Putting the baby onto the mother’s chest and encouraging breastfeeding also help prevent life-threatening infections.”

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