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Investing in the quality care of a child in the first thousand days of their life holds many long-term benefits for their development. (AFP)

The number of children around the world who die each year has dropped by more than half since 1990 but still falls short of the millennium development goal (MDG) target, according to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) this week. 

The report, which was co-authored by the World Health Organisation and World Bank Group, indicated that global child mortality has dropped by 53% – from 12.7-million in 1990 to 5.9-million in 2015.
The MDGs, eight international development targets set by the United Nations in 2000, expire this year and although this is the first time child deaths have fallen below “the six million mark”, “it is not enough to meet the” fourth goal to reduce child mortality by more than two-thirds. 

The most recent estimates for South Africa suggest that not only will the country fail to achieve the MDG but it also falls short of the global reduction of 53%. 

According to the report South Africa has reduced its child mortality rate from 60 deaths per every 1 000 live births in 1990 to 41 in 2015. The MDG target is 20.
Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest child mortality rates in the world and the report authors stated that one child in 12 dies before his or her fifth birthday in this region – “far higher than the average ratio of 1 in 147 in high-income countries”.

Geeta Rao Gupta, Unicef deputy executive director, said that most of these deaths are preventable and almost half occur in the first month of life.
“[This] should impel us to redouble our efforts to do what we know needs to be done. We cannot continue to fail them,” she said in a press release.
However, the MDGs are set to be replaced next year with another set of global targets to be reached by 2030 – the sustainable development goals which have yet to be finalised.

But, according to the report, the proposed goal for child mortality is to “end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age” and for all countries to reduce the under-five mortality rate to at least as low as 25 deaths per 1 000 live births.