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Trends in global child mortality

Sep 16, 2011

The recent Levels & Trends in Child Mortality report 2011 by UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation reveals that the global child mortality rates are declining. However, rural and poor households worldwide face the highest under-five child deaths.

Levels & Trends in Child Mortality report 2011

Published by:Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), UNICEF

Only four years remain to achieve Millennium  Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which calls for reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds between 1990 and 2015. Since 1990, the  under-five mortality rate has dropped 35 %, with every developing region seeing at least a 30 % reduction.


However, at the global level progress is behind schedule, and the target is at risk of being missed by 2015. The global underfive mortality rate needs to be halved from 57 deaths per 1,000 live births to 29—that implies an average rate of reduction of 13.5 % a year, much higher than the 2.2 % a year achieved between 1990 and 2010.

Child mortality is a key indicator not only of child health and nutrition but also of the implementation of child survival interventions and, more broadly, of social and economic development. As global momentum and investment for accelerating child survival grow, monitoring progress at the global and country levels has become even more critical.

The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) updates child mortality estimates annually for monitoring progress. This report presents the IGME’s latest estimates of under-five, infant and neonatal mortality and assesses progress towards MDG 4 at the country, regional and global level.

The number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. Nearly 21,000 children under five died every day in 2010—about 12,000 fewer a day than in 1990.

Despite substantial progress in reducing underfive deaths, children from rural and poorer households remain disproportionately affected. Analyses based on data from household surveys for a subset of countries indicate that children in rural areas are about 1.7 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday as those in urban areas and that children from the poorest 20 % of households are nearly twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as children in the richest 20 % of households.

Similarly, mother’s education remains a powerful determinant of inequity. Children of educated mothers—even mothers with only primary education—are more likely to survive than children of mothers with no education.

In South Asia, neonatal deaths account for 50 % of under-five deaths, and almost 30 % of global neonatal deaths occurred in India

Southern Asia also needs to address neonatal mortality: neonatal deaths account for 50 % of under-five deaths, and almost 30 % of global neonatal deaths occurred in India. 

Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, while the share of the rest of the world dropped from 31 % in 1990 to 18 % in 2010. About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. India (22 %) and Nigeria

(11 %) together account for a third of all under-five deaths. Over 70 % of under-five deaths occur within the first year of life.

Globally, the four major killers of children under age 5 are pneumonia (18 %), diarrhoeal diseases (15 %), preterm birth complications (12 %) and birth asphyxia (9 %). Undernutrition is an underlying cause in more than a third of under-five deaths.Malaria is still a major killer in Sub-Saharan Africa, causing about 16 % of under-five deaths.

Empowering women, removing financial and social barriers to accessing basic services, developing innovations that make the supply of critical services more available to the poor and increasing local accountability of health systems are examples of policy interventions that have allowed health systems to improve equity and reduce mortality.

An equity-focused approach could bring vastly improved returns on investment by averting far more child deaths and episodes of undernutrition and by markedly expanding effective coverage of key primary health and nutrition interventions.

Source : UNICEF
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