by Stephanie Parker
UNITED NATIONS, May 27 (Xinhua) -- As the global community strives to reach the eight anti-poverty objectives outlined by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a high-ranking UN official has called attention to the fact that 6.9 million children under the age of five die every year.
"(In the) 1990s child mortality was at 12 million a year and now in the 2000s we have 6.9 million," Kim Dickson, a public health physician and senior advisor with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), told Xinhua in a recent interview.
According to the latest statistics released by UNICEF on child mortality, the global mortality figure translates into 19,000 deaths per day.
The adoption of the MDGs has played an important role in creating a better world in terms of maternal and child health, Dickson said. "But we still have a long way to go."
The MDGs, including the eradication of extreme poverty, improvement of maternal health and the reduction of child mortality, were agreed upon by world leaders at the Millennium Summit held at UN Headquarters in New York in September 2000 with 2015 as its deadline.
Dickson recalled some of the experiences she had as a former practising physician in Ghana. "Some of the things were so horrific that even as a doctor I would run away, because a child was dying before me."
"I could not tell a mother that her child was dying because she would be crying and I would be (also) crying, so I would have to leave it to the nurse," she said.
"So I can tell you many stories" about children under five dying from malnutrition, malaria, measles, diarrhea and other preventable illnesses, Dickson added.
Despite the dire consequences of these illnesses turning deadly, the UN official said that "we now know from statistics that the day you are born, your birthday, is the riskiest day for you in your whole life."
Therefore, "newborn death" is a priority as statistics provided by UNICEF state that over 3 million babies across the world die during their first month outside the mother's womb.
"So now we have children dying in the first 28 days of life," Dickson said. "We have reduced child deaths, but we have not done that much for newborns."
Generally speaking, a newborn death can be prevented by practising basic newborn care. In the interview, Dickson cited specific examples of newborn care, including "wrapping the baby to keep it warm, drying the baby off and giving it breast milk during the first one hour and continuing exclusive breastfeeding."
Therefore, she said that the international community should focus on early childbirth advocacy.