Global Child Mortality Declines By One-Third Since 1990, U.N. Report Says

The number of children who die before age 5 has declined by one-third since 1990, Reuters reports.

The “total number of under-five deaths decreased to 8.1 million per year in 2009 from 12.4 million per year in 1990,” according to data from UNICEF. But the new child mortality data does not meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal target, which “calls for a two-thirds reduction in the mortality rate among children under five between 1990 and 2015” (Kelland, 9/16).

“The new estimates were published in the 2010 report Levels & Trends in Child Mortality [.pdf], issued by the U.N. Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), and in a special commentary in The Lancet,” according to a UNICEF press release (9/17).

The data show that globally, there are 12,000 fewer child deaths each day compared to 1990, Agence France-Presse reports. However, “the tragedy of preventable child deaths continues. Some 22,000 children under five still die each day, with some 70 percent of these deaths occurring in the first year of the child’s life,” UNICEF said.  

“The highest child mortality rates are in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in eight children dies before their fifth birthday – nearly 20 times the average for developed regions (1 in 167). Southern Asia has the second highest rate, with about one in 14 children dying before reaching five,” AFP writes.

In 2009, about half of the deaths among children younger than 5 occurred in India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China (9/16).

According to the Lancet Comment discussing the findings, “countries that made the most progress did so because of rapid expansion of basic public health and nutrition services such as immunizations, breastfeeding, vitamin A supplementation and provision of safe drinking water,” Reuters writes. “But coverage of measures to stop diarrhea and malaria – which cause more than half of the under-five deaths in sub-Saharan Africa – remain low” (9/16).  

A Reuters factbox highlights some of the key statistics (9/17).

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