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Child mortality rate drops by a third since 1990

2010-09-16

NEW YORK, 17 September 2010 – The latest United Nations under-five mortality estimates were released today by UNICEF and they show continued progress in reducing the number of children who don’t live to see their fifth birthdays.

According to these estimates, the total number of under-five deaths decreased globally from 1990 to 2009 from 12.4 million per year to 8.1 million. The global under-five mortality rate has dropped by a third over that period, from 89 deaths per 1,000 live births to 60 in 2009.

The good news is that these estimates suggest 12,000 fewer children are dying each day around the world compared to 1990.

However the tragedy of preventable child deaths continues. Some 22,000 children under five still die each day, with some 70 per cent of these deaths occurring in the first year of the child’s life.

Under-five mortality is increasingly concentrated in a few countries. About half of global under-five deaths occurred in just five countries in 2009: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China.

The highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where 1 in 8 children dies before their fifth birthday--nearly 20 times the average for developed regions (1 in 167). Southern Asia has the second highest rates, with about 1 in 14 children dying before age five.

While the speed at which under-five mortality rates are declining improved for 2000 to 2009 compared to the previous decade, the under five deaths are still not decreasing fast enough --especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern Asia and Oceania--to achieve Millennium Development Goal target (of a two thirds decline between 1900 and 2015).

The new estimates were published in the 2010 report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), and in a special commentary in The Lancet.

The estimates are the work of a number of UN system organizations that form the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, and are developed with oversight and advice from independent experts from academic institutions.

Download the Levels and Trends in Child Mortality report for more information.

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About the IGME
(IGME) was formed in 2004 to share data on child mortality, harmonize estimates within the UN system, improve methods for child mortality estimation and produce consistent estimates of child mortality worldwide for reporting on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. The IGME, led by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, also includes the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as full members.

The IGME’s independent Technical Advisory Group, comprising eminent scholars and independent experts in demography, provides technical guidance on estimation methods, technical issues and strategies for data analysis and data quality assessment.

The IGME updates its child mortality estimates annually after reviewing newly available data and assessing data quality. This report contains the latest IGME estimates of child mortality at the country, regional and global levels. Country-specific estimates and the data used to derive them are available from the child mortality database of the IGME: CME Info (www.childmortality.org).

About UNICEF 
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause.  UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.