In a separate set of rankings measuring the well-being of mothers and children in 140 countries worldwide, Save the Children has Sweden as No. 1 (the best place in the world to be a mother), while Niger comes last.
The ranking includes 60 developing countries, which together account for 94 percent of all child deaths worldwide. The rankings indicate which countries are succeeding and which are failing to save the lives of children under the age of 5 years.
The rankings are part of the 8th annual State of the World's Mothers report, released by Save the Children US.
Among the developing countries, Bangladesh and Nepal are making great strides in child survival despite limited financial resources. These countries have invested in better health care for mothers, better nutrition for children, and lifesaving health care services to prevent and treat deadly diseases.
The report credits Nepal-despite having a GNI of only $1,530 and being mired in conflict-for having reduced its under-5 death rate by almost half in the past 15 years. Increasing immunization coverage and vitamin A supplementation among young children are key to this success.
In Bangladesh, 46 percent more infants live to see their 1st birthday, while the child mortality rate is down by 51 percent. In recent decades, Bangladesh has boosted girls' school enrollment rates, improved the quality of education for girls and promoted family planning. In 2005, Bangladesh was one of only a handful of least developed countries to have achieved gender parity in primary education, where nearly every child, boy and girl alike, was enrolled in primary school. Similarly, at 47 percent, Bangladesh has the highest percentage of women using contraception of any least developed country. These pioneering efforts have led Bangladeshi couples to choose smaller, healthier families.
While progress has been made in some countries in South Asia, much remains to be done.
Among the report's major findings:
- About half (40 percent, or 2 in 5) of deaths among children under 5 years, occur in the first month of life. (Note: it's 4 million outof 10.1 million)
- Nearly half of all children under age 5 are suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
- One child in 4 does not reach his or her 5th birthday in Afghanistan. Nearly 40 percent of all Afghan children are malnourished. This is largely due to the armed conflict and social instability in the country.
- 274,000 Bangladeshi children never see their fifth birthday. Less than 15 percent of deliveries are attended by skilled health personnel.
- The majority of child deaths occur in just 10 countries of the world, many with large populations such as India. Child deaths in India in 2005 were estimated to be 1,919,000, representing nearly 20 percent of all under-five deaths in the world.
- Nearly 90percent of births in Nepal are not attended by skilled personnel, placing both mother and newborn at greater risk of death.
- In Pakistan, rural births are fives times less likely to be assisted by skilled health personnel. Approximately 473,000 Pakistani children die before they turn 5 years old.
The report also features the 8th annual Mothers' Index, ranking the best and worst places to be a mother around the globe. In South Asia, India stands at 61st in the developing world, while Afghanistan ties with Niger for last out of 164 countries.
The report also notes the three biggest killers of children under 5 years worldwide - newborn disorders, pneumonia and diarrhoea. By using existing interventions, we can save more than 6 million of the 10.1 million children who die every year from easily preventable or treatable causes. There are many inexpensive solutions that have the greatest potential to save lives such as vaccines, oral rehydration therapy (ORT) and insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Save the Children notes that it is ultimately a question of political will and social commitment than a matter of national wealth as the countries in South Asia show.
For more information, contact:
Regional Communication Officer
Save the Children Sweden, Regional Office for South and Central Asia
+977 985 103 4154
Notes to the editor:
The publication can be accessed at www.savethechildren.org. Pictures and interviews can be made available on request.
Save the Children is one of the world's oldest and largest independent organisation for children, making a difference to children's lives in over 110 countries. Established in 1919 by Eglantyne Jebb, she was the first to press for worldwide safeguards for children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989 and now ratified by nearly all countries worldwide, has its roots in her pioneering work. From emergency relief to long-term development, Save the Children helps children to achieve a happy, healthy and secure childhood. Save the Children listens to children, involves children and ensures their views are taken into account. Save the Children secures and protects children's rights - to food, shelter, health care, education and freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation.