Investment In Poor Children Saves More Lives: Unicef

The study demonstrates that interventions reaching children in poor groups proved 1.8 times more cost-effective in terms of lives saved.

New Delhi: Unless the world makes faster progress on reducing child mortality, almost 70 million children will die by 2030 before reaching their fifth birthday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

In its new analysis, the Unicef found that investing in the health and survival of the deprived children and communities provides more value for money and it saves almost twice as many lives for every one million USD spent as equivalent investment on less deprived groups.

Drawing on new data from 51 countries, where around 80 per cent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur, the study shows that improvements in coverage of life-saving interventions among poor groups helped decrease child mortality in these countries nearly three times faster than among non-poor groups.

The study demonstrates that interventions reaching children in poor groups proved 1.8 times more cost-effective in terms of lives saved.

The study selected six key health interventions as indicators to assess high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions — use of insecticide-treated bed nets, early initiation of breastfeeding, antenatal care, full vaccination, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery, and seeking care for children with diarrohea, fever or pneumonia.

“The power of investing in the poorest children presents compelling new evidence that backs up an unconventional Unicef prediction made in 2010 that the higher cost of reaching the poorest children with life-saving, high-impact health interventions would be outweighed by greater results,” Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement on Thursday.

He emphasised that investing in the poorest children is not only right in principle but also right in practice.

The study found that access to high-impact health and nutrition interventions has improved most rapidly among poor groups in recent years, leading to substantial improvements in equity.

During the period studied, absolute reductions in under-five mortality rates associated with these changes in coverage were nearly three times faster among poor groups than non-poor groups.

Since birth rates were higher among the poor than the non-poor, the reduction in under-five mortality rate in poor communities translated into 4.2 times more lives saved for every million people, the study said.

Of the 1.1 million lives saved across the 51 countries during the final year studied for each country, nearly 85 per cent were among the poor.

While the per capita investment needed to improve coverage among the poor is greater than that required to reach the non-poor, these investments save almost twice as many lives per one million USD invested as equivalent investments in the non-poor.

The study lists Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Malawi as some of the countries with high rates of under-five mortality where focus on the most deprived has made a difference for children.

Between 1990 and 2015, under-five mortality decreased by half in Afghanistan and by 74 per cent in both Bangladesh and Malawi.

“This is critical news for governments working to end all preventable child deaths at a time when every dollar counts. Investing equitably in children’s health also saves futures and helps break intergenerational cycles of poverty,” Lake said.

“A healthy child has a better chance of learning more in school and earning more as an adult,” he added.

The findings come at a critical time, as the governments continue their work towards achieving the sustainable development goals.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)