Global Child Mortality Rate Hits Record Low

Nov 23, 2009

The steadily falling global child mortality rate hit a record low this year, according to data released in September by UNICEF, a world health organization.

The number of children under age five who died around the world fell to 8.8 million in 2008 – the lowest since officials began keeping records in 1960. The figure reflects a 28 percent drop from 1998, when 12.5 million young children died before they turned five.

Public health experts attribute the continuing decline in global child mortality to higher rates of immunizations – including measles vaccinations, the spread of anti-malaria mosquito netting, breastfeeding and vitamin supplements. Where these interventions have increased, positive results have followed.

Progress has been seen in every region of the world, although four countries – South Africa, Chad, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have seen a rise in child mortality.

“A handful of countries with large populations bear a disproportionate burden of under-five deaths, with 40 percent of the world’s under-five deaths occurring in just three countries: India, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

The global rate of improvement is still insufficient to reach Millennium Development Goals – to reduce child mortality by two-thirds, from 93 children of every 1,000 dying before age five in 1990 to 31 of every 1,000 in 2015. Africa and Asia combined still account for 93 percent of all under-five deaths that occur each year in the developing world.

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