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IN the past quarter century, the number of childhood deaths have been cut by half, representing one of the most dramatic advances in human health in history.
Since 1990, 122 million children’s lives have been saved, as a result of all the global advances in that time – from an increase in vaccination rates, access to contraceptives, better nutrition, advances in education, gender equity and economic growth.
This is one of the key messages from Bill and Melinda Gates, who this week released their annual letter, addressing it to investor and philanthropist Warren Buffet. Buffet made a donation of $30 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006.
The letter outlines some of the dramatic progress in human health since then, particularly in Africa, where the Gates Foundation does much of its work and the ground that is yet to be covered.
Here are some of the big numbers highlighted in the letter:
86%: The number of children now receiving all three doses of the basic package of childhood vaccines diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT), the highest it has ever been. Vaccines are the biggest reason for the drop in childhood deaths in the past 25 years, and the gap between the richest and the poorest countries is the lowest it has ever been.
19 million: The number of children, many of them living in conflict zones or remote areas, still not fully immunized. Reaching them is crucial to the goal of cutting childhood deaths in half againdown below 3 million by 2030.
1 million: The number of infants who die on the day theyre born; the first 24 hours are the most dangerous in a persons life. As the total number of childhood deaths has dropped, the proportion that are newborn deaths has gone up. Newborn deaths now represent 45% of all childhood deaths, up from 40% in 1990.
30%: The percentage decline of newborn deaths in Rwanda in just seven years (2008-2015), to 19 deaths per 1,000 births. By comparison, Maliwith a comparable GDPhas a newborn mortality rate of 38 deaths per 1000, twice as high as Rwanda.
Rwanda initiated and intensified some simple and quick practices that have had a big impact in newborn survival and child health: breastfeeding in the first hour and exclusively for the first six months, cutting the umbilical cord in a hygienic way, and kangaroo care: skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby to raise the babys body temperature.
45%: The percentage of child deaths that are linked to malnutrition. Nutrition is the biggest missed opportunity in global health today. Malnourished children can be getting enough calories, but not the right nutrients. That makes them more susceptible to conditions like pneumonia or diarrhoea and more likely to die from them.
1%: The percentage of foreign aid that goes towards nutrition today. Nutrition gets better as a country gets richer, but unlike with newborn survival, there are no significant positive outliersthere are no poor countries with almost all of their children well nourished.
300 million: the number of women in developing countries who are using modern methods of contraception. It took decades to reach 200 million women. It has taken only another 13 years to reach 300 million.
One in five: The proportion of women who are using modern contraceptives in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, one of the lowest usage rates in the world. There are still more than 225 million women in the developing world who dont want to get pregnant but dont have access to contraceptives.
35: The number of new polio cases in the whole world last year. In 1988, when the global campaign was launched to end polio, there were 350,000 new cases, a decline of 99.99%. Those 35 cases were in northern Nigeria and parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
2030: The year when there could be almost no people living in extreme poverty in the world. Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the last 25 years, and on current trends, it could be history in the next decade and a half.