Child deaths have halved globally since 2000, says Unicef

In 1990 some 12.7m under-fives died each year – most preventable – and it is now 5.9m

Former Barcelona FC player Patrick Kluivert: Unicef Uganda has joined FC Barcelona and other sport organisations  to highlight Ugandan child survival. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

Former Barcelona FC player Patrick Kluivert: Unicef Uganda has joined FC Barcelona and other sport organisations to highlight Ugandan child survival. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

 

The number of children dying before their fifth birthday has been reduced globally by more than half since 2000, according to the latest figures from Unicef.

While the greatest progress has been made in sub-Saharan Africa, the improvement falls short of the two-thirds reduction sought in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the eight, time-bound targets adopted by world leaders in 2000.

In 1990 some 12.7 million under-fives were dying annually while, today, that figure is down to 5.9 million – which means that 6.8 million children who would otherwise have died each year are now surviving beyond age five.

Almost all of the deaths of under-fives are preventable; just short of half are due to malnutrition or related complications, while other leading causes include complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, sepsis and malaria.

Greatest progress

The rate of death reduction in under-fives has increased globally from 1.8 per cent to 3.9 per cent, but in sub-Saharan Africa the reduction has increased from 1.6 per cent to 4.1 per cent. The MDG targets were met by Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.

Children from the poorest homes are almost twice as likely to die prematurely compared to children from richer homes. Children of uneducated mothers are nearly three times more likely to die prematurely compared to the children of mothers with at least a secondary school education. And children from rural areas are 1.7 times more likely to die prematurely compared to children from urban areas.

Improved standards

A Sustainable Development Summit in New York from September 25th to 27th, which will be attended by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is due to set new targets with the aim reducing under-fives’ mortality from its current 43 deaths per 1,000 live births to 25 per 1,000.

“Saving the lives of millions of children is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium – and one of the biggest challenges of the next 15 years is to further accelerate this progress,” said Unicef deputy executive director Yoka Brand.

The Unicef report, A Promise Renewed, is at unicef.org