From: Reuters
Published May 6, 2008 06:53 AM

Philippines, Peru lauded for child health progress

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Philippines and Peru are doing the best job of vaccinating children and treating them for critical diseases compared to other developing nations, Save the Children reported on Tuesday.

With 84 percent of its children having these basic health needs unmet, Ethiopia placed on the bottom of the list in the report issued by the U.S.-based humanitarian group.

Save the Children also ranked 146 countries for how good they are for mothers and children. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, New Zealand and Denmark topped the list. Niger was last. The United States placed 27th, one spot below last year's ranking.

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The rankings were based on data that included immunization against childhood diseases such as malaria and tetanus, access to treatment for leading childhood killers such as diarrhea and pneumonia, prenatal care and other factors.

Worldwide, more than 200 million children under age 5 do not get basic health care when they need it, with the poorest children being the worst off, Save the Children said.

In the Philippines, 31 percent of children under 5 are missing out on such basic health care, the smallest proportion of any country in the report. Peru was next at 32 percent, then South Africa (34 percent) and Indonesia (35 percent).

"The Philippines nearly cut its child death rate in half since 1990. The health ministry, through USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) support, launched a number of health initiatives in 1989, including a push to increase access to oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea," David Oot, who heads the group's global health programs, told reporters.

But inequities were still apparent, the group said.

The poorest Filipino children were 3.2 times more likely to go without basic health measures. And Peru, despite placing second on the list, had the widest gap in child death rates between the rich and poor -- with the poorest children 7.4 times more likely to die than the richest.

Ethiopia was last in the rankings, followed by Somalia (82 percent), Chad (78 percent), Yemen (71 percent) and Laos (69 percent), according to the report.

Some developing countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, were not included in the report due to insufficient data, Save the Children official Mary Beth Powers said.

The report said in terms of sheer numbers, India had the most children -- 67 million -- not getting adequate health care, followed by Nigeria (16 million), Bangladesh (12 million), Ethiopia (11 million) and Pakistan (10 million).

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Philip Barbara)

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