Save the Children has recently ranked Niger highest in a report into the progress made by countries worldwide in tackling preventable child deaths in an equitable and sustainable way.

Niger is a country with a complex and disparate mix of problems.  It is one of the world’s poorest countries, even though there is a wealth of resources within its borders.  Despite these issues, it is rightly coming to be recognized as a country that is being proactive and making sustained efforts to rebuild, grow and address the many problems it faces.

This report is another good news story coming out of Niger, particularly uplifting in a region where bad news is so often commonplace.

In comparison to many countries, Niger’s child mortality rate still remains very high.  However, what this report shows is that Niger is making better progress than a number of other countries in two essential ways.  Firstly, it is one of relatively few countries that is on track to meet the Fourth Millennium Development Goal – reducing preventable under-five mortality rates by two-thirds by 2015.  Secondly, and even more importantly, it is meeting a critical “triple bottom line”.  What this means is that the reduction of child mortality has, thus far, been achieved in an equitable and sustainable way.  The policies implemented have benefitted children across all income groups, boys and girls equally, in both urban slums and rural areas.

Niger has achieved these impressive gains through clear, well-planned and consistently implemented policies.  On a wider scale, they have made free health care and nutrition programmes accessible to all pregnant women and their children, and they have extended the provision of basic health care to more inaccessible areas.  More specifically, increases in bed-net coverage, pneumonia treatment, as well as immunization and exclusive breastfeeding programmes, have further helped their progress towards sustainably meeting the Fourth Millennium Development goal.  The result being that Niger has, since 1990, reduced its under-five child mortality rate from 326 deaths for every 1,000 live births to 114 per 1,000 as of 2012 – a 65% reduction.

There is still much work to do worldwide in reducing child mortality.  The “Lives on the Line” report from Save the Children, highlights the need for leaders throughout the world to address the key issues affecting those under-five years old – namely pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria – with policies and programmes that will ensure children of all backgrounds, especially those often most neglected from the poorest sectors of society, have an equal chance of survival.

Niger has so far set a great example and achieved such goals despite internal upheaval, external threats, limited resources, and continual droughts.  Hopefully others can follow suit.

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