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Report: Deaths of children under 5 in EA decline by 57pc

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Kenya is among four East African countries which have managed to reduce the deaths of children under the age of five by a whopping 57 percent.

This is according to the 2019 Global Childhood Report by Save the Children which was released on Tuesday.

The report said that the likelihood of a child dying before his or her fifth birthday in East and Southern Africa has reduced by 57 percent since 2000 as a result of robust measures put in place over the last 20 years.

Kenya increased its end of childhood index by 174 points from 573 in 2000 to the current 747, representing a 56 percent improvement, placing it as the fourth most improved country in the East African region.

For instance, Kenya reduced stunting by 36 percent with the rate falling from 41 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2014 with the main drivers being improvements in children’s health and survival.

Uganda increased by 66 percent, Tanzania by 59 percent, Eritrea improved by 177 and Ethiopia by 237.

Rwanda made the greatest improvement in the region and second best in the world, reducing its under-five mortality by 79 percent over 20 years.

The country has over the years seen more children enrolling in schools, with fewer children getting married before the age of 18 and the out-of-school rate and child marriage rate both down by 60 percent.

Save the Children’s Region Regional Director for East and Southern Africa Ian Vale stated that government policies and development investment, including in insecticide-treated bed nets, immunisation campaigns, dietary supplements, and programmes to encourage breastfeeding are some of the measures which have contributed to the dramatic improvement.

However, he said despite the progress made in the region, the under-five mortality rate still remains a concern in the region with 59 deaths per 1,000 live births being recorded.

The highest rate in the world is in Somalia, with one child in eight dying before their fifth birthday with South Sudan also in the global top ten.

“Of course, these results need to be viewed within a wider picture. Children in East and Southern Africa continue to be some of the most disadvantaged globally. However, with the situation for children globally improving year by year, it’s heartening to know that children in this region are not being left behind,” said Mr Vale.

The report evaluates 176 countries across the world on their ability to protect children’s “childhood enders” – life-changing events like child marriage, early pregnancy, exclusion from education, sickness, malnutrition and violent deaths.

Mr Vale pointed out that of the eight “childhood enders” examined in the report, displacement due to conflict is the only one on the rise globally, with 30.5 million more people being forcibly displaced now than in 2000, an 80 percent increase.

In 2000, an estimated 970 million children had been robbed of their childhood globally due to “childhood enders” but the number today has been reduced to 690 million.

This means that at least 280 million children are better off today than they would have been two decades ago.

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