By Emma Batha
LONDON (AlertNet) - Reducing infant mortality is crucial to tackling the global population crisis, according to a report by Save the Children published to coincide with the birth of the planet’s 7 billionth person.
The aid agency estimates more than 20,000 children will die on Oct. 31 – the day the 7 billionth baby is expected to be born. Most of these deaths will be from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
But the charity says it is a myth that saving children’s lives will fuel population growth.
Evidence shows tackling high death rates leads to smaller families and the stabilisation of national populations, according to its report, ‘The World at 7 Billion’.
Stopping children dying from preventable causes is not just a moral imperative, but also the best way of stabilising global population growth, Save the Children’s director of policy and advocacy, Brendan Cox, said.
“In the poorest countries, where parents are often petrified that their children will die and leave them to fend for themselves, it’s understandable that they would choose to have larger families," he added.
"We must help to give them another choice. As we bring child mortality down, parents will feel more confident that most of their children will survive and have smaller families as a result.”
Save the Children points to the example of Botswana where three decades ago women had an average of six children. The average is now three, following long-term investment in healthcare which has helped to nearly halve child mortality.
The United Nations has warned that the global population could rise to 15 billion by the end of the century.
Save the Children is urging world leaders to invest in healthcare, education and family planning in the world’s poorest countries in order to reduce family sizes and bring the population under control.
The report says 7.5 million children still die before reaching their fifth birthday every year, but it says progress has been made in tackling child mortality.
The 7 billionth baby is more likely to live to see their fifth birthday than ever before, Save the Children says.
In 1987, when the 5 billionth baby was born, 1 in 9 children never reached five. Today it is 1 in 16.