Child mortality

Child mortality

Child mortality, also known as under-5 mortality, refers to the death of infants and children under the age of five. In 2010, 7.6 million children under five died [1], down from 8.1 million in 2009,[2] 8.8 million in 2008,[3] and 12.4 million in 1990.[2] About half of child deaths occur in Africa. Approximately 60 countries make up 94% of under five child deaths.[4] Reduction of child mortality is the fourth of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.



According to UNICEF[5], most child deaths (and 70% in developing countries)[6] result from one the following five causes or a combination thereof:


Two-thirds of deaths are preventable.[7] Malnutrition and the lack of safe water and sanitation contribute to half of all these children’s deaths. Research and experience show that most of the children who die each year could be saved by low-tech, evidence-based, cost-effective measures such as vaccines, antibiotics, micronutrient supplementation, insecticide-treated bed nets, improved family care and breastfeeding practices [8], and oral rehydration therapy[9]. In addition to providing vaccines and antibiotics to children, education could also be provided to mothers about how they can make simple changes to living conditions such as improving hygiene in order to increase the health of their children. Mothers who are educated will also have increased confidence in the ability to take care of their children, therefore providing a healthier relationship and environment for them.


The under-5 mortality rate is the number of children who die by the age of five, per thousand live births per year (this should not be confused with child mortality rate, which is mortality from 1-5 years). In 2010, the world average was 57 (5.7%), down from 88 (8.8%) in 1990.[1] In 2006, the average in developing countries was 79 (down from 103 in 1990), whereas the average in industrialized countries was 6 (down from 10 in 1990). One in eight children in Sub-Saharan Africa die before their fifth birthday.[2] The biggest improvement between 1990 and 2006 was in Latin America and the Caribbean, which cut their child mortality rates by 50%.[10] The world's child mortality rate has dropped by over 60% since 1960.[11]

A child in Sierra Leone, which has the world's highest child mortality rate (262 in 2007)[11] is about 87 times more likely to die than one born in Sweden (with a rate of 3).[12] According to a Save the Children paper, there are huge disparities in the under-five mortality rate between rich and poor households in developing countries. For example, children from the poorest households in India are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than those from the richest households.[13]

According to the World Health Organization, the main causes of death are pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV. Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths.[14] 1 child dies every 5 seconds as a result of hunger - 700 every hour - 16 000 each day - 6 million each year - 60% of all child deaths (2002-2008 estimates).[15][16][17][18][19]

Highest rates in the world

In 2009, there were 31 countries reported in which at least 10% of children under five died. All were in Africa, except for Afghanistan. The highest 10 were:[20]

In deaths per thousand

  1. Chad - 209
  2. Afghanistan - 199
  3. Democratic Republic of the Congo - 199
  4. Guinea-Bissau - 193
  5. Sierra Leone - 192
  6. Mali - 191
  7. Somalia - 180
  8. Central African Republic - 171
  9. Burkina Faso - 166
  10. Burundi - 166

See also


  1. ^ a b UNICEF press release Sept. 2011
  2. ^ a b c UNICEF press relief September 17, 2010
  3. ^ MSN September 10, 2009
  4. ^ The Lancet. Child survival special issue.
  5. ^ UNICEF - Health - the big picture
  6. ^ UNICEF - Health
  7. ^ UNICEF - Young child survival and development.
  8. ^ UNICEF MDG Goal 4
  9. ^ New formula for oral rehydration salts will save millions of lives
  10. ^ UNICEF - State of the World's Children 2008
  11. ^ a b UNICEF press release Sept. 12, 2008
  12. ^ UNICEF - Sweden statistics
  13. ^ Inequalities in child survival: looking at wealth and other socio-economic disparities in developing countries
  14. ^ World Health Organization. What are the key health dangers for children? Available at:
  15. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization Staff. “The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2002: Food Insecurity : when People Live with Hunger and Fear Starvation”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2002, p. 6. “6 million children under the age of five, die each year as a result of hunger.”
  16. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Economic and Social Dept. “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004: Monitoring Progress Towards the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004, p. 8. “Undernourishment and deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals cost more than 5 million children their lives every year”.
  17. ^ Jacques Diouf. “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004: Monitoring Progress Towards the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004, p. 4. “one child dies every five seconds as a result of hunger and malnutrition”.
  18. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization, Economic and Social Dept. “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2005: Eradicating World Hunger - Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2005, p. 18. “Hunger and malnutrition are the underlying cause of more than half of all child deaths, killing nearly 6 million children each year – a figure that is roughly equivalent to the entire preschool population of Japan. Relatively few of these children die of starvation. The vast majority are killed by neonatal disorders and a handful of treatable infectious diseases, including diarrhoea, pneumonia, malaria and measles. Most would not die if their bodies and immune systems had not been weakened by hunger and malnutrition moderately to severely underweight, the risk of death is five to eight times higher.”.
  19. ^ Human Rights Council. “Resolution 7/14. The right to food”. United Nations, March 27, 2008, p. 3. “6 million children still die every year from hunger-related illness before their fifth birthday”.
  20. ^ [1]

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