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Climate change slowing efforts to improve child health - study.

Pressure from climate change and environmental deterioration is slowing down efforts to improve child health, a new study has shown.

The study found that children under five in Africa are more likely to die from illnesses linked to air pollution, unsafe water and lack of sanitation.

Increased family size and environmental degradation were also found to cause child deaths.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Flinders University in South Australia, and the University of Western Australia and published in journal BMJ Open.

The researchers analysed data to examine the correlation between increased child deaths and environmental degradation and the population density of selected African countries.

Kenya has experienced a decline in maternal mortality from 488 to the current 362 per 100,000 live births. This equals to 2,000 maternal deaths prevented annually.

The study, however, warned that a lot still needs to be done despite child survival improving by 56 per cent since 1990.

'Children under five in sub-Saharan Africa are still 15 times more likely to die than those in high-income countries. One in 13 children die before their fifth birthday,' researchers said.

WHO estimates that 5.6 million children under five died in 2016. Over half of the deaths were deemed preventable and/or treatable.

The researchers said regions with high population growth rates have more poverty and poorer child health.

"Across African countries, national child health was lowest when water quality, improved sanitation, air quality, and environmental performance were lowest,' Professor Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw said they had proved that large households are linked to worsening child health outcomes in developing nations.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1Adeg C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8Adeg C to 1.2Adeg C.

IPCC is the UN's body for assessing the science related to climate change.

The IPCC report said global warming is likely to reach 1.5AdegC between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

The researchers suggested that access to clean water and better sanitation improves child health.

They also hypothesised that increasing food supply improves child health given that the quantity and quality of food available has been identified as one of the main drivers of reductions in child stunting.

WHO says that 4.2 million deaths every year are as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.

Further, 3.8 million deaths are caused every year as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels.

Ninety-one per cent of the world's population lives in places where air quality exceeds WHO guideline limits.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:60SUB
Date:Oct 2, 2019
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