Death Rate For Children Under 5 Has Plunged, UN Reports


By John Zarocostas

McClatchy Foreign Staff


GENEVA — In a break from the recent slate of doom-and-gloom reports of catastrophes, wars and destruction, a United Nations report released Tuesday says the number of children under 5 who die each year fell by 49 percent between 1990 and 2013, from 12.7 million to 6.3 million, saving 17,000 lives every day.

“There has been dramatic and accelerating progress in reducing mortality among children, and the data prove that success is possible even for poorly resourced countries,” said Mickey Chopra, head of global health programs at the U.N. Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF.

“There is now a gathering momentum from countries in every part of the world to make sure proven, cost-effective interventions are applied where they will save the most lives,” he said.

The report, titled “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014” and compiled by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the U.N’s Department of Economic and Social affairs, said that the rate for deaths of children under 5 fell from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 46 in 2013.

Overall, in developing regions, the rate fell from 100 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 50 in 2013, the report said. In rich, developed regions, the rate fell from 15 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to six in 2013. In the United States, the decline was somewhat less dramatic, from 11 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to seven in 2013.

The major causes of death for children under 5 are preterm birth complications (17 percent); pneumonia (15 percent); complications during labor and delivery (11 percent); diarrhea (9 percent ); and malaria (7 percent), the study notes. Not having enough to eat contributed to nearly half of all deaths in children under 5, the report said.

Children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia remain at greater risk than their counterparts elsewhere on the globe. Nearly half of all child deaths in 2013, 3.1 million, occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly a third, 2 million, were in South Asia.

The report found that rich, developed regions accounted for only 1.4 percent of child deaths in 2013 — about 87,000, of whom 29,000 died in the United States.

Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, the data show, reduced the under-5 mortality by more than two-thirds since 1990, with reductions of 67 percent, 76 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

Similarly, the findings show that of the 60 countries where the under-5 mortality rate remains higher than 40 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2013, 27 reduced the rate by at least half since 1990. Among those countries with the biggest reductions were Malawi, Bangladesh, Liberia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, East Timor, Niger and Eritrea.


(Zarocostas is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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