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A child under 15 dies every five seconds around the world – UN report

© UNICEF Pacific/2018/Sokhin

Children from the highest mortality countries are up to 60 times more likely to die in the first five years of life than those from the lowest mortality countries, report also says.

NEW YORK/SUVA, 18 September 2018 – An estimated 6.3 million children under 15 years of age died in 2017, or 1 every 5 seconds, mostly of preventable causes, according to new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank Group.

The vast majority of these deaths – 5.4 million – occur in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths. Globally, in 2017, half of all deaths under five years of age took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 per cent in Southern Asia. 

Most children under 5 die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis and malaria. By comparison, among children between 5 and 14 years of age, injuries become a more prominent cause of death, especially from drowning and road traffic. 

For children everywhere, the most risky period of life is the first month. In 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month. A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country. And progress towards saving newborns has been slower than for other children under five years of age since 1990. 

Even within countries, disparities persist. Under-five mortality rates among children in rural areas are, on average, 50 per cent higher than among children in urban areas. In addition, those born to uneducated mothers are more than twice as likely to die before turning five than those born to mothers with a secondary or higher education.

Despite these challenges, fewer children are dying each year worldwide. The number of children dying under five has fallen dramatically from 12.6 million in 1990 to 5.4 million in 2017. The number of deaths in older children aged between 5 to 14 years dropped from 1.7 million to under a million in the same period.

In the Pacific, 6[1] of the 14 countries are showing improvement over the last year. Solomon Islands is included among 10 countries in the world with the most significant improvement in under five mortality between 2017 and 2018. Improvement could be attributed to enhanced quality of the antenatal care services[2], increased immunization coverage rates[3], increased government commitment and budget allocation[4], and overall better coordination among donors and development partners.

“We need to celebrate the great strides in reducing the number of children under five who die in Pacific,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific Representative.  “It is commendable that 7 of the 14 countries have achieved the SDG target of less than 25 under five deaths per 1000 live births. We will need to place an even greater priority on improving access to quality health services, promotion of breast feeding, good nutrition, and access to clean water and basic sanitation for this positive trend to continue,” he added


[1] Solomon, Vanuatu, FSM, RMI, Palau, Nauru. IGME 2018.

2 Ministry of Health & Medical Services Statistical Health Core Indicator Report 2017, Solomon Islands

3 WHO/UNICEF Joint Reporting Form (JRF) 2017 submitted by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands

4 National Health Strategic Plan, 2016-2020, Solomon Islands.



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