Insufficient Healthcare Increases Child Fatality Rates

The upward trend in the number of countries that fail to provide the most basic of health services to children in order to save their lives is extremely disturbing.

A report today found that more than 200 million children worldwide under 5 years of age do not receive basic healthcare, leading to nearly 10 million deaths annually from treatable ailments. Nearly all of the deaths occur in the developing world, with poor children facing twice the risk of dying compared to richer children, according to a global report by non-profit organization, Save the Children.

Sweden, Norway and Iceland top the ranking in terms of well-being for mothers and children in 146 countries surveyed, with Nigeria ranking last. Eight out of 10 bottom-ranked countries are in sub-Saharan Africa, where four out of five mothers are found to lose a child. The top three among the 55 developing countries ranked in the survey are the Philippines, Peru and South Africa. Indonesia and Turkmenistan tied for fourth.

Through a number of health initiatives, the Philippines has been able to successfully cut its child death rate in half since 1990 and today, more than 75 percent of Filipino children with diarrhea receive rehydration therapy, compared with 15 percent of Ethiopian children, according to a study conducted by Save the Children.

What’s perhaps most disturbing is the upward trend in the number of countries that fail to provide the most basic of health services to children in order to save their lives; 30 percent of children in developing countries are not getting basic health intervention like prenatal care, skilled assistance during birth, and basic immunizations. In the Philippines and Peru, for example, the poorest children are 3.2 times more likely to go without essential healthcare than their best-off counterparts with the poorest Peruvian children 7.4 times more likely to die than their richest counterparts.

In Latin America, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru have some of the world's widest survival gaps between rich and poor children. In Asia, large disparities also exist in India and Indonesia. Use of existing, low-cost tools and knowledge could save more than 6 million of the 9.7 million children who die yearly from easily preventable or curable causes.

Last year, the Children’s Health Fund conducted a study and found that 1 in 4 children go without sufficient healthcare in the US despite the billions of dollars in government funding. It's estimated that 9 million children are completely uninsured in the US. But the study says 11.5 million more kids end up without medical care for part of the year. And another 3 million can't get a ride to the doctor, equating to more than 23 million children.

According to Irwin Redlener, MD, president of Children’s Health, “what we need is $60 billion.”

Getting that type of government assistance may be next to impossible, but ultimately less expensive than the cost of neglecting the medical needs of a generation of children, both in the US and worldwide.