16 September 2011

Child Mortality: The Good News and Bad News

The WHO/UNICEF report on child (under the age of 5) mortality rates (PDF) is really exciting news. Child deaths are down and the rate is accelerating. There is a lot to be happy about, but some reasons for concern. I took some of the main points and put them into the good and bad news. Without further ado:

Good News
  • The number of under-five deaths worldwide has declined from more than 12 million in 1990 to 7.6 million in 2010. Nearly 21,000 children under five died every day in 2010—about 12,000 fewer a day than in 1990.
  • The rate of decline in under-five mortality has accelerated—from 1.9 percent a year over 1990–2000 to 2.5 percent a year over 2000–2010—but remains insufficient to reach MDG 4, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, Caucasus and Central Asia, and Southern Asia
Bad News
  • About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. India (22 percent) and Nigeria(11 percent) together account for a third of all under-five deaths.*
  • Over 70 percent of under-five deaths occur within the first year of life.
  • The proportion of under-five deaths that occur within the first month of life (the neonatal period) has increased about 10 percent since 1990 to more than 40 percent.

In short, there is a lot of reason to celebrate, but we need to keep our heads down and drive the rates lower, especially in India, Nigeria, DRC, Pakistan and China.

*Note: It is no surprise that these nations are a part of the list as they are all very big which can lead to higher numbers. In the case of the DRC, the ongoing war and plays a major role and the same, to some extent, can be said of parts of Pakistan. So, the concentration may not quite be bad news.