State of the World's Children


2013: Children with Disabilities

2012 : Children in an urban world

2011: Adolescence

Special: Child rights

2009: Maternal + newborn health

2008: Child survival

2007: Gender equality


Situation in Malaysia

Child mortality rates are generally recognised as the best indicators of the wellbeing of a child population and are also an assessment of a country’s overall development.

It is the outcome of a wide variety of factors, including socio-economic conditions, the impact of basic social services, and the ability of parents or caretakers to protect their children’s health. The child mortality rates are long-term impact indicators as they only change slowly over a longer period of time.

Malaysia's success

Malaysia has experienced dramatic improvements in health in general, and maternal and child health in particular, throughout the post-Independence era, with levels today close to that of most advanced countries.

§ The reported under five mortality rate (U5MR) has declined from 57 per 1,000 live births in 1970 via 16.6 in 1990 to 8.1 in 2005.

§ The reported infant mortality rate (IMR) has declined from 41 per 1,000 live births in 1970 via 13.0 in 1990 to 6.3 in 2005.

§ The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) halved between 1957 and 1970 when it fell from around 280 to 141 per 100,000 live births. By the 1990s, the MMR declined further and has since levelled to around 33 per 100,000 live births (about 160 reported maternal deaths per year.

Malaysia’s remarkable experience in reducing child and maternal mortality has been the result of a synergy of a wide range of policies, strategies, and programs that have addressed access to services through socio-economic, cultural, educational, gender, and poverty dimensions.

Medical advances, including vaccines and oral rehydration for the treatment of diarrhea as well as the availability of child health services that include control of communicable diseases and immunisation have been made widely accessible in Malaysia, even in rural areas, through the country’s primary health care system.

These advances, together with progressively increased access to clean water, improved sanitation, and better child nutrition have been the key determinants for the dramatic decline in infant and child mortality rates over the past three and half decades since 1970, while improvements in access to quality maternal health services has contributed to better health care for mothers-to-be and outcomes for children. 

Maternal services include increased professional skills of trained delivery attendants to manage pregnancy and delivery complications; investments in upgrading the quality of essential obstetric care in district hospitals; and improved monitoring systems.

Challenges to be addressed

However, having reached such low levels, recent trends are levelling out while a continued rural – urban disparity is evident.

The leading causes of death today are perinatal conditions for children under one year of age while septicaemia and pneumonia are the leading causes of death among children 1-5 five years old. As for maternal mortality rates, proxy indicators point to slightly higher levels in Sabah as well as among the Orang Asli population in Peninsular Malaysia.

At the same time, the country is currently in a stage of epidemiological transition where non-communicable and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV are increasing.  HIV infections amongst women and girls have swelled four-fold with females making up for 15% of new cases in 2006 as compared to only 4% in 1996.

This trend corresponds with the jump in heterosexual transmission of HIV from 5% in 1990 to 27% in 2006. Today, for every six reported new cases in males, one is female.





State of the World's Children 2008

SOWC 2008 - Malaysia


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