Peru Sees Biggest Decline in Infant Mortality Rate in Latin America

The decline in Peru’s infant mortality rate over the past 20 years has been the sharpest drop in all of Latin America, according to a report by UNICEF.

In 1990, Peru had the world’s fourth highest infant mortality rate at 75 per 1,000 births, according to the report, which was cited by Peru.21. By 2011, however, the infant mortality rate dropped to 18 deaths per 1,000 births.

Experts says the decline is the result of improved health services in rural areas, as well as improved controls of respiratory infections and diarrhea.

Experts also attribute it to campaigns to promote breastfeeding, vaccinations, the education of women, and better attention during labor in health centers.

Although the drop in the infant mortalities is good, about 11,000 children younger than 5 years old died in 2011, including 5,000 babies less than a month old.

There are also still big gaps between urban centers on the coast and rural areas in the Andean highlands and Amazon jungle. The highest rate of infant mortality in Peru, for example, is in the Andean region of Puno, with a rate of 52 deaths for every 1,000 births.  Many deaths are attributed to respiratory infections, the result of freezing temperatures during May-August and —in the rural areas— smoke inhalation from cooking fires within homes that have little ventilation in order to ward off the cold.

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