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Early years

© UNICEF Philippines/2008/Francia

Give children the best possible start in life.


  • Close to 12 million children are below 5 years old.
  • 23 out of 1,000 children die before reaching the age of 1.
  • 28 out of 1,000 children die before reaching the age of 5.
  • Only 7 out of 10 infants are fully immunized.
  • Only 3 out of 10 children attend day care programs or pre-schools. 

Infant deaths, undernutrition, poor immunization coverage, lack of micronutrient supplementation, inadequate attention to cognitive and psychosocial development, and low birth registration threaten children’s survival and development. All of these are critical issues in the child’s ability to enjoy his right to education to the fullest extent possible.

Child mortality rates in the Philippines have steadily decreased since 1998. But disparities across regions remain. In 2003, 7 out of 17 regions were estimated to have infant and under-five mortality rates higher than the national average. Rural areas are worse off with an infant mortality rate of 36 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Immunization is one of the most important and cost-effective interventions that the government’s health system can provide to the poor and most vulnerable populations. Routine immunization of children and women leads to the control and eventual eradication of preventable diseases.

In the Philippines, immunization rates had steadily gone uphill from 1990 until 1999. When the government changed its strategy of procuring vaccines in 2000, the coverage plummeted because the supplies were not delivered on time and inevitably resulted in stock shortage. In 2003, the government approved a new set of policies on the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) that included the procurement of vaccines through UNICEF. Complete immunization coverage for children below 2 years old reached almost 70 percent in 2003.

Early learning for children below 6 years old remains a major concern. Data from the education department show that only 3 of 10 children attend pre-school or day care services. Despite the passage of a national law on early childhood care and development, many parents still shun the practice of early learning stimulation whether through formal or non-formal structures.

The prevalence of underweight children (0-5 years old) has decreased since 1998 from 32% to 28% in 2003. But the rate of progress is still not sufficient to reach the national target of 17% in 2015.





Relevant statistics

Infant mortality rate 
23 deaths per 1,000 live births
Under-five mortality rate 
28 deaths per 1,000 live births
State of the World’s Children Report
UNICEF, 2009

Fully immunized children
(12-23 months old)
Total 70%
Urban 74%
Rural 65%
National Demographic & Health Survey
National Statistics Office, 2003

Underweight children
(0-5 years old)
Total 28%
National Nutrition Survey
Food & Nutrition Research Institute, 2003


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