Wednesday, 30 September 2015

UNICEF global report finds large drop in Indonesian child deaths – but major challenges remain

By Nick Baker, Communication and Knowledge Management Officer 

Around 4.5 million Indonesian children have been saved since 1990. ©UNICEF Indonesia/2015

A new global UNICEF report has highlighted how Indonesia is making substantial progress in reducing child mortality.

The Promise Renewed: 2015 Progress Report stated that the Indonesian under-five mortality rate currently stands at 27 deaths per 1,000 live births compared against 85 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990.

In 1990, an estimated 395,000 children died in Indonesia before reaching their fifth birthday. The corresponding number was 147,000 in 2015. “This is still a shocking number, but it also means that an estimated 4.5 million children have been who would have died if the mortality rate had remained at the 1990 level,” UNICEF Indonesia Representative Gunilla Olsson said.

The report singled out Indonesia as among 24 out of 81 low and lower-middle income countries that achieved a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality over this time period – the target of Millennium Development Goal Four.

Simple, high-impact solutions coupled with economic growth likely contributed to this dramatic reduction of under-five deaths, including expanding coverage of immunization, exclusive breastfeeding and the prompt diagnosis and treatment of common childhood illnesses. These are all areas in which UNICEF and development partners have been providing support at national and local levels.

Global numbers from the Promised Renewed report. ©UNICEF/2015

Ms. Olsson used the release of the report to also highlight how much work still needs to be done in the area of child mortality: “These latest numbers hide significant disparities across the country. Available data suggests that child mortality in Papua is more than three times that of Jakarta. And additional disparities exist across wealth quintiles.”

Almost half of under-five deaths occur in the first month after birth and can be attributed to complications from premature birth, asphyxia and severe infections. “Curbing this requires a health system that is capable of providing round-the-clock high quality services in all parts of the country,” Ms. Olsson said.

Moving forward, it is vital that child mortality is tracked, monitored and addressed at a subnational level to improve current discrepancies. There are also opportunities to increase access to evidence-based interventions. These interventions include oral rehydration solution and zinc for diarrhea, and a number of new efficacious vaccines that have not yet been introduced in Indonesia.

Many more Indonesian children under five can still be saved © UNICEF Indonesia/2014

2015 presents a watershed moment in global efforts to address child mortality. Later this month, 193 governments will meet at United Nations Headquarters and agree on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a roadmap for human progress over the next 15 years. One goal will be to bring the rate of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) per 1,000 live births in every country by 2030.

“Indonesia needs to build on its success and reduce child mortality rates further in the coming years,” Ms. Olsson said. “We remain committed to working together and ensuring that progress occurs in every part of the country. The SDG goal on under-five mortality should only be considered achieved if it is met in every province and every district across the archipelago.”