The race to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015 is more than halfway run, but new reports say South Africa is unlikely to reduce its burden of deaths in children under five in time to cross the finish line.
A report by Countdown to 2015, an international group monitoring maternal and child health, has singled out South Africa as one of the countries that has made almost no progress in the last decade in bringing down deaths among children under the age of five.
Although infant deaths have declined by 20 percent since 2001, they remain high, with 47 out of every 1,000 babies dying before they are one year old.
In its latest report the group said that if South Africa is to meet MDG 4 – a two-thirds drop in under-five mortality by 2015 - it would have to almost halve deaths among children in the next five years. So far, child deaths have declined by less than one percent annually, with 46 percent caused by AIDS-related illnesses.
Recent estimates by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), a government agency, reveal that 43 percent of all deaths are AIDS-related. The country has an HIV prevalence of about 18 percent, and has long struggled with high maternal and child mortality.
Stats SA, which has increasingly included HIV figures as part of its general population monitoring, also estimated that 410,000 South Africans would be newly infected with HIV in 2010, and that 10 percent of them would be children.
Former South African health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang instituted audits into maternal and newborn infant deaths at public health facilities, a move the Countdown report lauded as helping to provide national health departments with the information they need to address specific problems.
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