May 8, 2007
By Maria Cheng, Associated Press
LONDON - The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than any other nation in the world since 1990, according to a report released yesterday that placed the country last in child-survival rankings.
One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005, said the report by Save the Children, an independent, nonprofit charity. Iraq ranked last because it made the least progress toward improving child-survival rates, the group said.
Iraq's mortality rate has soared by 150 percent since 1990. Even before the latest war, Iraq was plagued by electricity shortages, a lack of clean water, and too few hospitals.
The publication, which used data from 1990-2005, also found that some of the world's poorest countries - including Zimbabwe and Swaziland - that had made gains in survival rates were no longer doing so.
More than nine in 10 child deaths occur in just 60 developing countries, the report said. Of the 10 million children under age 5 who die every year, most could be saved with cheap solutions, such as nets to protect against mosquito-borne malaria or antibiotics to treat pneumonia, according to the report.
"These aren't intractable problems," William Foege, of the Emory University School of Public Health, wrote in a foreword. "It is simply wrong for only the few to have access to all of the tools for survival because of where they live."
About four million children a year die of complications in the first month of life, according to Save the Children. Other causes of death for young children include diarrhea and measles, the group reported.
Among industrialized countries, Iceland had the best child-survival rate, and Romania the worst. The United States placed 26th, tied with Croatia, Estonia and Poland. Nearly seven children die for every 1,000 live births in the United States. That was more than double the rate in Iceland, and 75 percent higher than rates in the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan and Slovenia.