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Highest child mortality in West, C Africa

13 September 2013, 07:33

Cape Town - West and Central Africa have the world's highest mortality rate for children under the age of 5, the UN children's fund, Unicef, announced on Friday.

One out of eight children under 5 die in the region, according to the report. That's almost a third of the 6.6 million children under 5 who died worldwide in 2012.

"It's a challenge for a child to be born in West or Central Africa. Its chances of survival are much lower than anywhere else in the world," Guido Borghese, Unicef regional adviser on child survival and development told dpa via telephone from Dakar, Senegal.

The region has made the least progress on child survival in the past two decades, compared to other parts of the world.

Pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria are the leading causes of death, followed by malnutrition, according to Unicef.

A high number of deaths was also reported in the first month of life, due to lack of health services, infrastructure and trained staff.

A combination of political instability, high population growth and natural disasters were the key reasons for high child mortality rates in West and Central Africa, Borghese explained.

"The population is unable to absorb the shock of these situations," said Borghese.

"In Mali, for example, the national health system has been affected by [18 months of political] crisis. We expect child mortality figures to increase due to the conflict," he added.



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