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Programme of action of the Internatíonal conference on population and development - Chapter VIII: Health, morbidity and mortality - B. Child survival and health

Basis for action

8.12. Important progress has been made in reducing infant and child mortality rates everywhere. Improvements in the survival of children have been the main component of the overall increase in average life expectancy in the world over the past century, first in the developed countries and over the past 50 years in the developing countries. The number of infant deaths (i.e., of children under age 1) per 1,000 live births at the world level declined from 92 in 1970-1975 to about 62 in 1990-1995. For developed regions, the decline was from 22 to 12 infant deaths per 1,000 births, and for developing countries from 105 to 69 infant deaths per 1,000 births. Improvements have been slower in sub-Saharan Africa and in some Asian countries where, during 1990-1995, more than one in every 10 children born alive will diebefore their first birthday. The mortality of children under age 5 exhibits significant variations between and within regions andcountries. Indigenous people generally have higher infant and child mortality rates than the national norm. Poverty, malnutrition, a decline in breast-feeding, and inadequacy or lackof sanitation and of health facilities are all factors associatedwith high infant and child mortality. In some countries, civil unrest and wars have also had major negative impacts on child survival. Unwanted births, child neglect and abuse are also factors contributing to the rise in child mortality. In addition,HIV infection can be transmitted from mother to child before orduring childbirth, and young children whose mothers die are at avery high risk of dying themselves at a young age.

8.13. The World Summit for Children, held in 1990, adopted a setof goals for children and development up to the year 2000, including a reduction in infant and under-5 child mortality rates by one third, or to 50 and 70 per 1,000 live births, respectively, whichever is less. These goals are based on the accomplishments ofchild-survival programmes during the 1980s, which demonstrate notonly that effective low-cost technologies are available but also that they can be delivered efficiently to large populations. However, the morbidity and mortality reductions achieved through extraordinary measures in the 1980s are in danger of being eroded if the broad-based health-delivery systems established during the decade are not institutionalized and sustained.

8.14. Child survival is closely linked to the timing, spacing and number of births and to the reproductive health of mothers. Early,late, numerous and closely spaced pregnancies are major contributors to high infant and child mortality and morbidity rates, especially where health-care facilities are scarce. Where infant mortality remains high, couples often have more children than they otherwise would to ensure that a desired number survive.


8.15. The objectives are:

  1. To promote child health and survival and to reduce disparities between and within developed and developing countries as quickly as possible, with particular attention to eliminating the pattern of excess and preventable mortality among girl infantsand children;
  2. To improve the health and nutritional status of infants and children;
  3. To promote breast-feeding as a child-survival strategy.


8.16. Over the next 20 years, through international cooperation and national programmes, the gap between average infant and child mortality rates in the developed and the developing regions of the world should be substantially narrowed, and disparities withincountries, those between geographical regions, ethnic or cultural groups, and socio-economic groups should be eliminated. Countries with indigenous people should achieve infant and under-5 mortality levels among their indigenous people that are the same as those of the general population. Countries should strive to reduce their infant and under-5 mortality rates by one third, or to 50 and 70 per 1,000 live births, respectively, whichever is less, by the year2000, with appropriate adaptation to the particular situation of each country. By 2005, countries with intermediate mortality levels should aim to achieve an infant mortality rate below 50 deaths per 1,000 and an under-5 mortality rate below 60 deaths per 1,000 births. By 2015, all countries should aim to achieve an infant mortality rate below 35 per 1,000 live births and an under-5 mortality rate below 45 per 1,000. Countries that achieve these levels earlier should strive to lower them further.

8.17. All Governments should assess the underlying causes of highchild mortality and should, within the framework of primary healthcare, extend integrated reproductive health-care and child-health services, [including safe motherhood, 21/ child-survival programmes and family-planning services, to all the population an dparticularly to the most vulnerable and underserved groups. Such services should include prenatal care and counselling, with special emphasis on high-risk pregnancies and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection; adequate delivery assistance; and neonatal care, including exclusive breast-feeding, information on optimal breast-feeding and on proper weaning practices, and the provision of micronutrient supplementation and tetanus toxoid, where appropriate. Interventions to reduce the incidence of low birth weight and other nutritional deficiencies, such as anaemia, should include the promotion of maternal nutrition through information, education and counselling and the promotion of longer intervals between births. All countries should give priority to efforts to reduce the major childhood diseases, particularly infectious and parasitic diseases, and to prevent malnutrition among children, especially the girl child, through measures aimed at eradicating poverty and ensuring that all children live in a sanitary environment and by disseminating information on hygiene and nutrition. It is also important to provide parents with information and education about child care, including the use of mental and physical stimulation.

8.18. For infants and children to receive the best nutrition and for specific protection against a range of diseases, breast-feeding should be protected, promoted and supported. By means of legal, economic, practical and emotional support, mothers should beenabled to breast-feed their infants exclusively for four to six months without food or drink supplementation and to continue breast- feeding infants with appropriate and adequate complementary food up to the age of two years or beyond. To achieve these goals, Governments should promote public information on the benefits ofbreast-feeding; health personnel should receive training on the management of breast-feeding; and countries should examine ways and means to implement fully the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.


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