Child Mortality Rates Down by More Than Half Since 1990, Report Finds

Child Mortality Rates Down by More Than Half Since 1990, Report Finds

Photo credit: UNICEF

The mortality rate for children under the age of five fell by 53 percent between 1990 and 2015, while the rate of decline in child mortality more than doubled after the United Nations implemented the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, a report from UNICEF finds.

According to A Promise Renewed: 2015 Progress Report (99 pages, PDF), the number of children who die before reaching the age of five fell from ninety-one deaths per 1,000 live births, or 12.7 million worldwide, in 1990, to forty-three deaths per 1,000 live births, or 5.9 million, in 2015. The report also found that the decline in the child mortality rate accelerated from an average of 1.8 percent annually in the 1990s to 3.9 percent annually between 2000 and 2015, with faster progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where the rate of decline accelerated from 1.6 percent to 4.1 percent. Since 2000, twenty-one sub-Saharan African countries have either reversed rising child mortality rates or at least tripled their pace of progress compared to the 1990s.

The study also found that in every region in the world, the mortality rate for children under the age of five fell by at least half between 1990 and 2015 and that twenty-four out of eighty-one low- and lower-middle income countries — including Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Uganda — achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing their under-five mortality rate by two-thirds or more.

The report notes, however, that the target has not been met globally. In addition, the study found significant disparities in mortality rates among children from the poorest families and those from the wealthiest families, children of mothers who do not receive secondary education and those of mothers who do, and children in rural areas and those in urban areas. The Sustainable Development Goals, which the UN will adopt later this month, urge countries to significantly increase their efforts to bring under-five mortality rates down to twenty-five deaths per 1,000 live births or fewer by 2030.

"Saving the lives of millions of children in urban and rural settings, in wealthy and poor countries, is one of the first great achievements of the new millennium — and one of the biggest challenges of the next fifteen years is to further accelerate this progress," said UNICEF deputy executive director Yoka Brandt. "The data tell us that millions of children do not have to die — if we focus greater effort on reaching every child."