Child mortality rates drop by a third since 1990 – UNICEF
Fewer children are dying before they reach their fifth birthdays, with the total number of under-five deaths falling by one third in the past two decades, according to fresh estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Between 1990 and 2009, the number of children below the age of five who died annually fell from 12.4 million to 8.1 million. The global under-five mortality rate dipped from 89 deaths per 1,000 live births to 60 during that period.
“The good news is that these estimates suggest that 12,000 fewer children are dying each day around the world compared to 1990,” UNICEF said in a press release accompanying the data, issued ahead of next week’s UN-hosted world leaders’ summit in New York on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
However, the agency stressed, “the tragedy of preventable child deaths continues.”
Some 22,000 children under the age of five continue to die every day, with 70 per cent of these deaths occurring within their first year of life.
Under-five mortality increasingly becoming concentrated in a few countries, with half of all deaths of children below five occurring in just five countries in 2009: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and China.
Sub-Saharan Africa – where one in eight children do not live to see their fifth birthday – continues to be home to the highest rates of child mortality. That is nearly 20 times the average for developed regions.
UNICEF cautioned that although the pace of decline of child mortality has picked up in the past decade, it is still not enough to meet the MDG target of a two-thirds decline between 1990 and 2015.
The new figures were published in this year’s Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, bringing together several UN entities, The estimates are developed with oversight and advice from independent experts from academic institutions.
Earlier this week, a new report by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank found that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.
While the progress is notable, the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the MDG target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015, the publication stressed.