UN agencies seek ways to stem child mortality from preventable causes

Seeking to bolster international commitment to saving some 11 million children who die annually of preventable and treatable causes, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) today opened an expert meeting in Stockholm aimed at designing a response strategy.The two-day Global Consultation on Child and Adolescent Health and Development has drawn experts and political leaders from around the world to craft a plan to prevent and treat diseases among the world’s poorest and youngest, with special focus on the millions of babies who die during the first weeks of their lives. “Of the 11 million who die, 8 million are babies – half of them in the first month of life,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland. “Even when they do survive, many children are still unable to grow and develop to their full potential.”According to the agencies, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition are the main killers, with poverty as the underlying cause of all these diseases. WHO and UNICEF, while underscoring the need to strengthen health services, are calling for investments that go beyond hospitals and health centres.”In a world where most deaths happen before children reach any health facility, the focus must be on bringing services to people rather than people to services,” said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy.

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