Over the years, Substantial progress has been made to reduce child deaths. Between 1990 and 2009, the mortality rate for children under five in developing countries dropped by one third—12,000 fewer children died each day. Some of the world's poorest countries, including Ethiopia, Bolivia, and Bangladesh, have all reduced under-five mortality rates by more than half. Still, in sub-Saharan Africa, one in eight children dies before reaching the age of five.
Most child deaths are preventable. Five diseases—pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS—account for about two-thirds of all childhood deaths in developing countries. Most of these lives could have been saved through low-cost prevention and treatment measures such as vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplements, insecticide-treated bednets and oral rehydration therapy. Discrimination against women and girls also exists within families, often resulting in boys being given preference for food and access to healthcare, while girls may be denied treatment and care.
While some regions are on track to achieve MDG 4 by 2015, unfortunately, many countries remain behind. All 31 countries with under-five mortality rates exceeding 100 per 1,000 live births in 2009 were in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounted for half of the 8.1 million deaths in children under five worldwide that year. Evidence suggests that MDG 4 can still be achieved globally, but only if countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia improve childhood disease management.
Canada continues to play a leadership role in child health through CIDA's Children and Youth Strategy by improving access to maternal health care so that maternal and newborn deaths are reduced. CIDA supports work in areas such as:
In 2010, malaria killed 655,000 people, 91 percent of whom lived in Africa and 86 percent of whom were children under five. With support from Canada and other donors, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has financed the delivery of 260 million malaria drug treatments and the distribution of over 310 million insecticide-treated nets to protect families from malaria.
At the 2010 G8 meeting, hosted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leaders endorsed the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health—an initiative that garnered commitments of US$7.3 billion in new funding over five years, including $1.1 billion from Canada, to accelerate progress towards achieving MDGs 4 and 5.
Increased immunization coverage: CIDA supported UNICEF and the Government of Mozambique to launch a nation-wide immunization campaign against measles for children under five. The campaign, which took place during National Mother and Child Health Week in 2011, surpassed its original targets of providing 2.7 million children with a measles vaccine, 3.6 million children with a dose of vitamin A, and 3.2 million children with de-worming medicine.
Better nutrition: Canada is the world's leading provider of vitamin A for developing countries. Between 1999 and 2010, with Canada's support, the number of children receiving two doses of vitamin A supplements annually has more than tripled—from 16 percent to 86 percent. This has significantly contributed to a global reduction in child deaths, which dropped to 7.6 million annually in 2010 from 12.4 million in 1990. In 2011 alone, CIDA's support helped the Micronutrient Initiative provide more than 200 million children with vitamin A supplements and fortified food with key vitamins and minerals for 1.75 million people.
Improved health systems: Through the Africa Health Systems Initiative, Canada supports the implementation of national health sector strategic plans in Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. Between 2002 and 2007 in Mali, for example, CIDA's support helped reduce maternal mortality by increasing the proportion of deliveries by skilled health personnel from 24 percent to 50 percent.
Through the Catalytic Initiative to Save a Million Lives, Canada supported country health systems in improving the availability and strengthening the capacity of front-line health workers. This will expand their abilities to save the lives of expectant mothers and children under the age of five. Between 2007 and 2012, Canadian funding alone was estimated to have saved 200,000 lives. In addition, Canada's support will prevent disabilities such as mental stunting and blindness caused by malnutrition, and diseases like malaria, in many more children.