UN Report: Child Mortality Plunges But Fails MDG

A new UN Report reveals: Child mortality rates plunge by more than half since 1990 but efforts must be redoubled.

Child mortality rates have plummeted to less than half of what they were in 1990. That is the good news. The bad news: it is still not enough to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of a two-thirds reduction over the past 15 years, according to a new report released today by a number of United Nations agencies.

Launching the report, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Geeta Rao Gupta, said:

We have to acknowledge tremendous global progress, especially since 2000 when many countries have tripled the rate of reduction of under-five mortality. But the far too large number of children still dying from preventable causes before their fifth birthday – and indeed within their first month of life – should impel us to redouble our efforts to do what we know needs to be done. We cannot continue to fail them.

According to Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2015, released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group, and the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), under-five deaths have dropped from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015.

This is the first year the figure has gone below the 6 million mark. However, new estimates in the report indicate that although global progress has been substantial, 16,000 children under five still die every day.

Yet, the UN study highlights how most child deaths are easily preventable by proven and readily available interventions. It says the rate of reduction of child mortality can speed up considerably by concentrating on regions with the highest levels – sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – and ensuring a targeted focus on newborns.

Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO, noted:

We know how to prevent unnecessary newborn mortality. Quality care around the time of childbirth including simple affordable steps like ensuring early skin-to-skin contact, exclusive breastfeeding and extra care for small and sick babies can save thousands of lives every year.

She added that the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health to be launched at the UN General Assembly this month, will be a “major catalyst for giving all newborns the best chance at a healthy start in life.”

The report also shows that a child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with 1 child in 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday – more than 12 times higher than the 1 in 147 average in high-income countries.


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