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Progress in child mortality - challenges remain in West and Central Africa

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0480/Asselin

Fact and figures about child mortality in West and Central Africa

Embargo: 12:00pm GMT, Thursday 10 September 2009

West and Central Africa
In the region, there has been an 18% decline between 1990-2008 from 206 deaths per thousand live births to 169‰.

But, the rate of decline is not markedly accelerating and is said to be from 0.4% over the five year period 1990-95 to 1.4% over the period 2005-2008.

Too many children are dying unnecessarily. An estimated 2.6 million children under five die each year before their fifth birthday.

The rates of progress are grossly insufficient to achieve goals. The only country on track to achieve the MDG 4 is Cape Verde.

Sub-Saharan Africa
In sub Saharan Africa, because of high fertility rates and population growth, the actual (absolute) number of deaths has increased and is around 4.4 million in 2008 (from 4.1 million in 2006), although rates are declining.

Burden of child mortality
Forty per cent of the world’s under-five deaths occurring in just three countries: India, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Nigeria accounts for 12% of global under five deaths.

Impact of the global crisis
The figures do not reflect the recent food and price shocks, as there will be a time lag.

What we learn
Progress can be achieved in countries with relatively low cost interventions (eg Malawi).

Progress is achieved when the coverage of key preventative activities is above 50% (breastfeeding, vitamin A, immunization, bed nets).

Way forward
The challenge is to improve the coverage of preventative activities in more countries but also to tackle more complex issues such as pneumonia and diarrhea for which no significant progress has been made.

The data reflects the latest child mortality estimates based on the research of the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, United Nations Population Division).

For more information on the methodology and the latest validated data see



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