Investing in the health and survival of the most deprived children and communities provides more value for money, saving almost twice as many lives for every US$1 million spent as equivalent investments in less deprived groups, according to a new UNICEF analysis.
Narrowing the Gaps: The power of investing in the poorest children presents new evidence that backs up an unconventional prediction UNICEF made in 2010: the higher cost of reaching the poorest children with life-saving, high-impact health interventions would be outweighed by greater results.
“The evidence is compelling: Investing in the poorest children is not only right in principle, it is also right in practice – saving more lives for every dollar spent,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
“This is critical news for governments working to end all preventable child deaths at a time when every dollar counts. Investing equitably in children’s health also saves futures and helps break intergenerational cycles of poverty. A healthy child has a better chance of learning more in school and earning more as an adult.”
Unless progress on reducing child mortality accelerates, by 2030 almost 70 million children will die before reaching their fifth birthday, UNICEF said.
Drawing on new data from the 51 countries where around 80 per cent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur, the study shows that improvements in coverage of life-saving interventions among poor groups helped decrease child mortality in these countries nearly three times faster than among non-poor groups.
Crucially, the study uses new data and modeling tools to demonstrate that interventions reaching children in poor groups proved 1.8 times more cost-effective in terms of lives saved.
The study selected six key health interventions as indicators to assess high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions: the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, early initiation of breastfeeding, antenatal care, full vaccination, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery, and seeking care for children with diarrhea, fever or pneumonia.