Study finds big decrease in global child mortality

Using a new method of calculating mortality that they say is more complete and accurate than previous methods, a team of researchers from the University of Washington says the number of deaths of children under age five has plummeted from 11.9 million in 1990 to 7.7 million in 2010.

The findings are similar to a September report by the United Nation's Children's Fund that showed better malaria prevention and using drugs to protect newborns born to AIDS-infected mothers lowered mortality from 12.5 million under-five deaths in 1990 to 8.8 million in 2008. But the new estimates suggest that 800,000 fewer young children died than UNICEF estimates.

"Previous estimates had shown child deaths falling slowly and neonatal deaths nearly at a standstill. We were able to double the amount of data and improve the accuracy of our estimates to find that children are doing better today than at any time in recent history, especially in the first month of life," says Julie Knoll Rajaratnam, who led the study:

Globally, the team says 3.1 million newborns died in the past year, 2.3 million infants and 2.3 million children aged one year to four years.

They found under-five mortality is falling in every region of the world with increases only in Swaziland, Lesotho, Equatorial Guinea, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Every year, mortality goes down more than 2 per cent for children.

"One of the biggest achievements of the past 20 years has been this incredible progress in countries that historically have had the highest child mortality in the world," says Murray:

In Ethiopia, 202 per 1,000 children born died by age five in 1990, one of the highest rates in the world; by 2010, that rate has dropped by half to 101 per 1,000.

Singapore had a child mortality rate of eight per 1,000 in 1990, but now has the lowest rate in the world with two under-five deaths per 1,000.

The United States ranks 42nd in the world with a 2010 under-five mortality rate of 6.7 per 1,000.

This is about the same as Chile, with a 6.5 per 1,000 mortality rate but far higher than Portugal, with 3.3 and Sweden with 2.7.

Source: Maggie Fox, Study finds big decrease in global child mortality, Reuters, May 24, 2010.

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First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas and Washington, USA

FMF Policy Bulletin/ 01 June 2010

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