Health and wellbeing

Health and wellbeing | | Movimento Globale per i Diritti dell’Infanzia

Health and wellbeing
Every child has the right to enjoy the best possible health, healthy food and clean water, and to have access to adequate medical care at all times.
Art. 24, 25, 26
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Extraordinary progress has been made in recent decades to prevent infant mortality, such as vaccines and medical treatment, but not only (think mosquito nets, rehydrating salts and micronutrients, for example). Enormous progress has also been made on the maternal mortality front: more and more women and children are surviving pregnancy and childbirth. Since 2000, child deaths have been reduced by about half and maternal deaths by about a third, mainly due to increased access to quality and affordable health services. Despite this, easily treatable and preventable diseases such as malaria, measles and dysentery are major causes of child mortality globally. Together they cause about 30% of child mortality globally (UNICEF).

According to the latest UNICEF reports on child mortality, more than 5 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2021 - almost 13,800 every day -, along with 2.1 million children and young people between the ages of 5 and 24.

Much remains to be done especially on the neonatal mortality front. The first 28 days of life, in fact, represent the most delicate period for a child’s survival: in 2021, deaths in the neonatal period were more than 2.3 million, almost 47% of all deaths under 5 years of age: 6,400 every day.

Furthermore, there is a worrying setback in the fight against maternal mortality: while progress was significant between 2000 and 2015, this has largely stalled, or in some cases even reversed, with 287,000 maternal deaths occurring worldwide in 2020, one every 2 minutes.

When taken together, these figures report the death of 4.5 million women and infants each year during pregnancy, childbirth or the first weeks after birth; one life lost every 7 seconds. In the last decade, 152 million babies were born prematurely. A silent emergency, this is the leading cause of infant mortality to date.

Life-threatening environmental disasters and malnutrition affect 200 million children every year. The environment and insecurity caused by natural disasters play an equally important role in the health of children, boys and girls. More than 1 billion children are exposed to exceptionally high levels of air pollution and are at very high risk due to the global climate crisis. In countries affected by natural disasters, wars and conflicts, health risks are greatly increased, with health services often non-existent or inaccessible.

Worldwide, more than 200 million children suffer from some form of malnutrition. About 151 million suffer from chronic malnutrition, while 50.5 million are affected by acute malnutrition. In 2017, malnutrition accounted for about 3 million child deaths - more than 50 per cent of global child mortality.

In Yemen alone, almost half of all children under the age of 5 (this is about 2.2 million children), along with 1.3 million pregnant and breastfeeding women, suffer from acute malnutrition. In sub-Saharan Africa, conflict, climate shocks and rising food and fuel costs exacerbate the already alarming malnutrition rates in South Sudan. Today, some 1.4 million children in South Sudan suffer from malnutrition.

Equally worrying are the figures on child obesity, which are rising sharply. Globally, some 38.3 million children under five were overweight in 2017: 8 million more than the 30.1 million in 2000.

Mental health plays a very important role in the growth and development of each person’s potential. According to the latest data, there is a real mental health emergency among young people. Globally, 1 in 7 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 live with a diagnosed mental disorder. Anxiety and depression account for 40% of diagnosed mental disorders (UNICEF). Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-19 year olds, with 46,000 adolescents committing suicide every year, more than one every 11 minutes.

There are still too many taboos regarding mental health and gender roles also negatively impact this. Girls are more likely to seek psychological help and support to deal with different problems than boys and young men. In 77% of cases, a boy committed suicide.

Defending the health of boys and girls means fighting poverty, promoting proper hygiene, nutrition and disease prevention conditions and the many taboos concerning mental health as well as considering health as a state of physical, mental and social well-being (WHO).


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Defence for Children international Italia
Sede legale e sociale: Piazza Don Andrea Gallo 5-6-7 R - 16124 Genova
Sede operativa: Via Bellucci 4-6, 16124 Genova
010 0899050