- Botswana has topped global charts as safest country in world for children under age of five as it has seen fewer of them dying today than in past years.
According to latest data from UNICEF, globally, number of young children who died in 2007 dropped to 9.2 million, compared to 12.7 million deaths in 1990.
"Since 1960, global under-five mortality rate has declined more than 60 percent, and new data shows that downward trend continues," UNICEF Executive Director, Ann Veneman, said as she announced new figures.
UNICEF's chief of health, Dr Peter Salama, attributes significant decline in child mortality rates to improved maternal health care as well as disease prevention and control programmes.
"Botswana, for example, is providing a very important example of a country with a very high HIV prevalence that has turned corner, where under-five mortality is starting to go down," Dr Salama said.
He added, "we think that is really because there has been enormous progress in coverage of anti-retroviral treatment for adults, and increasingly for children, and coverage for prevention of mother-to-child transmission has been extremely high."
UNICEF report shows that, countries like Lao People's Democratic Republic, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bolivia have made most progress in reducing child mortality; their under-five mortality rates have dropped by more than 50 per cent since 1990.
These nations are well on track to achieving Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015.
Report further indicates that significant progress is being made in Africa, as well, with Eritrea's under-five mortality rate declining by 52 per cent over past 17 years.
During same period, child mortality rates have declined by at least 40 per cent in Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Ethiopia, report said.
Despite this progress, Africa remains continent with highest rate of child mortality. UNICEF shows that Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for almost half of all global deaths of children under five, while same region accounts for only 22 per cent of all births worldwide.
According to report, Sierra Leone is reportedly worst hit by under-five mortality rate in world with 262 out of every 1,000 children there dying before their fifth birthday.
Main causes of child mortality are pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, AIDS and vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, according to UNICEF data.
Under nutrition is also said be a major contributing cause in more than a third of all under-five child deaths.
To ensure that these children have an opportunity to survive, UNICEF believes efforts to address nutritional needs of women, infants and children must be accelerated.
"While progress has been made, much remains to be done," said Ms Veneman.
"As we are more successful in some ways, the task is a little harder. As coverage of basic services gets higher, most under-served populations are sometimes most difficult to access," added Dr Salama.
To ensure further declines in child mortality in future, UNICEF is calling for a greater focus on newborn and maternal health, as well as strengthening basic health systems in areas where young children are at risk.
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