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For Health of Young People, a Mixed Picture

Deaths in children under 5 continued to drop last year. But a study calls attention to the great number of preventable deaths in young people age 10 to 24. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

UNICEF says the death rate for children under the age of five has fallen twenty-eight percent since nineteen ninety. Experts credit the drop to improvements in public health measures. These include vaccination campaigns and the use of bed nets chemically treated to kill mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Still, Brian Hansford at the United Nations Children's Fund says more work remains.

BRIAN HANSFORD: "Certainly the good news is that the rate of deaths of children under five years of age continued to decline in two thousand eight. The absolute number of child deaths declined to an estimated eight-point-eight million from twelve-point-five million in nineteen ninety. Compared to nineteen ninety, ten thousand fewer children are dying each day. The bad news is that an annual death total of eight-point-eight million is still a tragedy, and so there's still much to do."

One of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals is to reduce the under-five death rate by two-thirds by two thousand fifteen. One country that could reach this goal is Malawi. In nineteen ninety, there were two hundred twenty-five deaths for every one thousand live births. The estimate for last year was one hundred deaths.

UNICEF spokesman Brian Hansford says pneumonia and diarrhea remain the world's two greatest killers of young children. Ninety-three percent of the deaths happen in Africa and Asia.

A separate new study looked at deaths worldwide in young people age ten to twenty-four. It found that ninety-seven percent happen in low and middle income countries. And two out of every five are the result of injuries and violence.

Professor George Patton at Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, was the lead author.

GEORGE PATTON: "In high income countries such as the United States, the U.K. and Australia, death rates are around forty-five per hundred thousand per year. In sub-Saharan Africa we have the highest death rates in the world, and they are around seven times higher than that."

The study found that worldwide, more than two and a half million people age ten to twenty-four died in two thousand four. Nearly two-thirds were in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth were a leading cause of deaths in females. But for both sexes combined, the leading killer in this age group was traffic accidents. Ten percent of all the deaths were blamed on road injuries.

Next came suicide and violence. Also in the top ten causes were infections, including tuberculosis and H.I.V./AIDS, as well as drowning and fire-related deaths. The study appears in the journal The Lancet.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. I'm Steve Ember.