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Source: Small Island Developing States

10 October 2019: Mortality rates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) show that 121 countries have achieved SDG target 3.2 on reducing deaths of infants and children under five. However, at least 53 other countries must accelerate progress if they are to reach this target by 2030. WHO also reports that 38 countries have instituted suicide prevention programmes, but many more must take action to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) (SDG target 3.4).

According to the WHO, many countries already have sufficient financing to achieve the SDG targets on maternal and child mortality, if they “spend it on the right things.” WHO and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a joint appeal on 19 September for governments to direct sufficient funding toward achieving primary health targets. The agencies estimate that around USD200 billion will be needed to do this, and that many developing countries can make important gains in maternal and child health through affordable solutions such as ensuring adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), helping adolescent girls to complete their school education, providing sufficient nutrition for pregnant women, and providing access to basic medicines and vaccines.

Reporting on infant and maternal mortality, UNICEF highlights persistent inequalities: babies born in sub-Saharan Africa are ten times more likely to die than babies born in wealthy countries, and that South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa account for eight out of ten maternal and child deaths worldwide. SDG target 3.1 aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 live births, while SDG target 3.2 commits to reducing deaths of infants to at least 12 per 1,000 live births, and to reduce deaths of children under five to 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030.

Reducing global suicide rates to 10% by 2020 is a milestone towards SDG target 3.4. On 10 September, World Suicide Prevention Day, WHO launched a one-month global “40 seconds of action” campaign to raise awareness of suicide rates and how suicide can be prevented. WHO reports that globally, one person dies from suicide every 40 seconds. WHO Executive Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on all countries to incorporate suicide prevention strategies into their national health and education programs.

Suicide is reported by WHO to be the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 years, outstripped only by traffic accidents. Pesticide poisoning accounts for 20% of suicides, and regulation of highly toxic pesticides has lowered suicide rates in some countries. Other approaches to suicide prevention include training of health workers to better assess and manage suicidal behavior, early treatment of mental health disorders, and monitoring of alcohol and substance use.

World Mental Health Day on 10 October also focused on suicide prevention. WHO, the International Association for Suicide Prevention, and United for Global Mental Health launched information resources about actions that emergency workers, health workers, teachers and employers can take to help prevent suicide.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News