The world remains significantly off-track in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on ending the preventable deaths of newborns and children under five, according to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) on Monday.
According to the report, more than 50 countries are unlikely to meet the 'under-5 mortality target' by 2030, and more than 60 countries will miss the neonatal mortality target without immediate action.
According to Sustainable Development Goal 3, Target 3.2, the UN calls for ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under age 5, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.
The UN IGME report states, more than 5 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2020 alone, along with 2.2 million children and youth aged 5 to 24.
"We are still losing too many young lives from largely preventable causes, often because of weak and underfunded health systems which have faced enormous pressure over the pandemic. And the burden of these deaths is not carried equally around the world. Children in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia continue to face the highest risk of death in the world, and to bear the brunt of this child mortality burden," Unicef Data and Analytics Associate Director Mark Hereward said.
"If we are going to achieve the child mortality SDGs in all countries, we must redouble efforts to ensure access to effective and high-quality care along with the continued expansion of coverage of life-saving interventions," he added.
Recent and reliable data on child, adolescent and youth mortality remains unavailable for most countries of the world, particularly for low-income countries. On top of that, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed additional challenges to improving data availability and quality, the report added.
Feng Zhao, Practice Manager, Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice, World Bank, said, "Countries must invest in quality health services, nutrition, and other life-saving interventions for women and children to ensure that the hard-won gains in combating child mortality are not lost and to meet the SDGs."
"The World Bank continues to be committed to helping low- and middle-income countries improve health outcomes for women and children and accelerate reductions in child mortality, including through partnerships like the Global Financing Facility (GFF)," he added.
The UN IGME analysed Covid-19 related excess mortality based on mortality data received from over 80 countries, half of which are low- or middle-income countries.
Following the analysis and recommendations from its Technical Advisory Group, the UN IGME has not adjusted the 2020 rate for Covid-19 related mortality.
However, as more good-quality data become available, further monitoring is needed for a more complete picture of the child, adolescent and youth mortality, as well as the relevant contributing factors, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states.
According to the WHO, future investments in the Covid-19 response and global health should strengthen all elements of global healthcare infrastructure, including leaving a lasting impact on data and primary health systems to help end preventable child deaths.
Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, at WHO said, "Intensified efforts are needed to deliver quality health care services for all children and adolescents, which also means collecting the necessary data to ensure that their physical, developmental and emotional needs are being met throughout their life."
"Investing in children is one of the most important things a society can do to build a better future," he added.