As many as 400 children die daily in Burma, says UNICEF

Jan 24, 2008 (AP), Hundreds of children under age 5 die from preventable diseases each day in military-ruled Burma, the second-worst mortality rate for children in Asia after Afghanistan, UN officials said Wednesday.

Dr Osamu Kunii, the nutrition expert in Burma for the UN Children’s Fund, said there were between 100,000 to 150,000 child deaths per year in the country ‚ or between 270 and 400 daily.

He was speaking at a briefing by UNICEF of its annual report on "The State of the World’s Children," released Tuesday. The under-5 mortality rate is a critical indicator of the well-being of children.

About 21 percent of child deaths in Burma are caused by acute respiratory infection, followed by pneumonia, diarrhea and septicemia.

The report rated Burma as having the 40th highest child mortality rate in the world, surpassed in Asia only by Afghanistan, which has the third-worst record after Sierra Leone and Angola.

It said, however, the death rate for young children in Burma had been reduced by 1.6 percent between 1990 and 2006.

In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked Burma’s overall health care system as the world’s second worst after war-ravaged Sierra Leone. Tens of thousands of people in Burma die each year from malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS, dysentery, diarrhea and other illnesses.

Most of Burma’s health care is funded by international sources, with the government spending only about 3 percent on health annually, compared with 40 percent on the military, according to a report published this year by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University.

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