The Save the Children Fund
Save the Children welcomes the overall progress made by countries in reducing child mortality in recent years. However, on current trends, there will be more than 4 million under-5 deaths in the year 2030, with children in the poorest households at 34% higher risk. Given the high proportion of neonatal deaths in the total burden of under-5 mortality, countries urgently need to transform how they provide care for the most vulnerable newborns, especially for those born small or sick. Millions of lives could be saved by investing in care for every newborn, including in humanitarian settings.
To our surprise, the report by the Director-General does not mention pneumonia as a leading cause of childhood mortality. Unlike other diseases that get more attention, such as TB or malaria, pneumonia is often ignored. Yet, it claims the lives of more children around the world than any other infectious disease. 880,000 children under five died of pneumonia in 2016. Countries should ensure strong, accessible primary health care systems for all communities, free at the point of use, combined with adequate nutrition interventions including a stronger commitment to improving breastfeeding rates, for the effective prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of, pneumonia.
Finally, we are concerned with the lack of attention to the mental health of children affected by conflict. The number of children living in a conflict zone has increased by more than 75% from the early 1990s when it was around 200 million, to more than 357 million in 2016. Long exposure to conflict causes children to enter a state of “toxic stress”, increasing the cases of bedwetting, self-harm, suicide attempts and aggressive or withdrawn behaviour. We are calling on all partners to scale-up long-term structural mental health and psychological support for children and adolescents in conflict-affected areas and post-conflict contexts.