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Malawi says cuts child deaths by 29 percent

Reuters    Translate This Article
29 January 2008

LILONGWE, (Reuters) - Malawi reduced the number of children who die before their fifth birthday by 29 percent in the six years to 2006, Health Minister Marjorie Ngaunje said on Tuesday.

The southern African nation, one of the world's poorest, has grappled with diseases like malaria, the most common cause of mortality in Malawian children under five.

'A 2006 survey showed a decline in the mortality of children under age of five from 189 to 118 per 1,000 live births between 2000 and 2006,' Ngaunje said.

She attributed the reduction to improved immunization, the provision of vitamin supplements and the elimination of the fatal neonatal tetanus disease.

Heightened malaria control and increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding, which increased from 3 percent in 1992 to 56 percent in 2006, as well as access to safe drinking water, had also helped, Ngaunje said.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said about 9.7 million children die each year before their fifth birthday, mostly from diseases that could be prevented with simple, affordable measures.

Sub-Saharan Africa has fared worst of the world's regions and now accounts for 49 percent of under-five deaths worldwide but only 22 percent of births. A child born there has a one-in-six chance of dying before turning five.

(Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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