Global child mortality continues to drop
NEW YORK, 10 September 2009 – UNICEF today released new figures that show the rate of deaths of children under five years of age continued to decline in 2008.
The data shows global under-five mortality has decreased steadily over the past two decades, and that the rate of the decline in the under-five mortality rates has increased since the 1990s. The average rate of decline from 2000 to 2008 is 2.3 per cent, compared to a 1.4 per cent average decline from 1990 to 2000.
Public health experts attribute the continuing decline to increased use of key health interventions, such as immunizations, including measles vaccinations, the use of insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria and Vitamin A supplementation. Where these interventions have increased, positive results have followed.
Progress has been seen in every part of the world, and even in some of the least-developed countries. A key example is Malawi, one of ten high under-five mortality countries that is now on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality between 1990 and 2015.
The new data also shows that seven of the 67 high mortality countries (those with under-five mortality rates of 40 per thousand live births or higher) have consistently achieved annual rates of reduction of under-five mortality of 4.5 per cent or higher. These are Nepal, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Bolivia and Malawi.
Impressive gains have also been made in countries that are not fully on track to meet the Millennium goal. Niger, Mozambique and Ethiopia have all reduced under-five mortality by more than 100 per 1000 live births since 1990.
While progress has been made in many countries, the global rate of improvement is still insufficient to reach the MDG, and Africa and Asia combined still account for 93 per cent of all under-five deaths that occur each year in the developing world.
“A handful of countries with large populations bear a disproportionate burden of under-five deaths, with forty per cent of the world’s under-five deaths occurring in just three countries: India, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Veneman. “Unless mortality in these countries can be significantly reduced, the MDG targets will not be met.”
The survey data incorporated in these estimates generally reflects mortality over the preceding 3 to 5 years. This means that major improvements in provision of nets for malaria prevention, of vaccines against meningitis (HiB) and of vitamin A supplementation, improved prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and of pediatric HIV, and further progress on protecting against measles and tetanus may not yet be fully reflected in the data.
“Achieving the Millennium Development Goal target of a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality by 2015 will require a strong sense of urgency with targeted resources for greater progress,” said Veneman.