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African child deaths could reach 5 million by 2015, warns UN agency

African child deaths could reach 5 million by 2015, warns UN agency

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned today that some 5 million African children will die by 2015 if donor countries stick to a "business as usual" approach to development on the continent.

But the number of deaths would be cut to 2 million if the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of cutting child mortality by two-thirds by 2015 is achieved, according to a new statistical analysis released by UNDP's Human Development Report Office.

"These preliminary figures are based on trends…But the numbers speak for themselves: business as usual will carry a high price in terms of lost lives and lost human potential for Africa," Kevin Watkins, Director of the Human Development Report Office, told a high-level forum on development cooperation, which opened in Berlin earlier today.

The preliminary report also noted that sub-Saharan Africa currently accounts for 1 in 3 people living in absolute poverty and by 2015 the share would increase to almost 50 per cent.

It goes on to point out that 45 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa are not enrolled in primary education. This total is just over one-third of the 115 million children worldwide who do not go to school.

"These numbers should serve as a wakeup call for G8 leaders," Watkins said. "Africa cannot afford to see the world's richest countries sleep walk their way to heavily signposted – and easily avoidable – human development disaster," he added.

The full analysis will be featured in the forthcoming 2005 edition of the UNDP's Human Development Report, which will be launched in September at UN headquarters in New York.