Child Survival Rate In Iraq Plummets

An Iraqi child is seen through shrapnel ridded glass of a shop in Shiite district of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, April 26, 2007. Locals said an Iraqi man was killed in an attack by the U.S. Air Force early Thursday morning. The U.S. military said it was checking the report. AP Photo/Adil al-Khazali

The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990, according to a report released Tuesday that placed the country last in its child survival rankings.

One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005, according to the report by Save the Children, which said Iraq ranked last because it had made the least progress toward improving child survival rates.

Iraq's mortality rate has soared by 150 percent since 1990. Even before the latest war, Iraq was plagued by electricity shortages, a lack of clean water and too few hospitals.

The publication, which used data from 1990-2005, also determined that gains in survival rates in some of the world's poorest countries — including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Swaziland — were declining.

The vast majority of child deaths, more than nine in 10, occur in just 60 developing countries, the report said. Of the approximately 10 million children under age 5 who die every year, most could be saved with cheap solutions, like nets to protect against mosquito-borne malaria or antibiotics to treat pneumonia, according to the report.

"These aren't intractable problems," Dr. William Foege, of the Emory University School of Public Health, wrote in a foreword to the report. "It is simply wrong for only the few to have access to all of the tools for survival because of where they live."

About 4 million children die of complications in the first month after birth every year, according to Save the Children. Other causes of death for young children include diarrhea, pneumonia and measles, the group reported.

Among industrialized countries, Iceland had the best child survival rate, and Romania the worst. The United States placed 26th, tied with Croatia, Estonia and Poland. Nearly seven children die for every 1,000 live births in the United States. That was more than double the rate in Iceland, and 75 percent higher than rates in the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan and Slovenia.

Among developing countries, Egypt fared the best, lowering its child mortality rate by 68 percent largely by improving care for pregnant women, ensuring the presence of a skilled attendant during childbirth and providing better family-planning help.

Since 1994, Egypt has also increased health spending by more than 200 percent.

  • Alfonso Serrano

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