FOUR million child deaths could be prevented over the next ten years if countries stopped skewing their medical spending to the rich rather than the poor, says a new report by Save the Children.
The report, A Fair Chance in Life, has been published in time for the meeting of world leaders at the UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), later this month.
The fourth goal — a two-thirds reduction in child mortality by 2015 — is unlikely to be met at current levels of progress. Child-mortality levels have dropped by less than one third, 28 per cent, in the past decade. To reach the MDG target, one million more children will have to live past five years old each year.
The charity says that cutting child mortality rates does not depend on how rich a country is, or how fast its economy is growing, but on how egalitarian its health spending is.
It says that, in developing nations, it is the children of the wealthiest fifth of the population who have disproportionately benefited from the focus on infant mortality, to the extent that “in some cases the poorest fifth of the population [are] no better or even worse off”. In Rwanda and Burkina Faso, for example, researchers found that child mortality had increased among the poorest fifth.
In Kenya, where there was an increase of nearly 150,000 deaths among under-fives between 1993 and 2003, an “egalitarian approach”, the charity says, would have prevented 214,000 deaths. By contrast, in Ghana and Bolivia, child mortality has decreased dramatically as spending has focused on helping the poorest.
The chief executive of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, said: “It is a disgrace that some countries are ticking a box on child mortality without ensuring that the poorest and most vulnerable children benefit.”