Child deaths in 2015: much accomplished, but more to do

IGME Report 2015_CoverIn 2000, world leaders agreed on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 4 called for a two-thirds reduction in the under-5 mortality rate between 1990 and 2015. Today the UN Interagency Group on Child Mortality Estimation (UN-IGME), which my team is heavily involved with, released its “final” assessment of the achievement of MDG 4 and global, regional and country levels. The report is available at child_mortality_trends.

Child mortality rates have plummeted to less than half of what they were in 1990. Under-five deaths have dropped from 12.7 million per year in 1990 to 5.9 million in 2015. This is the first year the figure has gone below the 6 million mark.

The global under-5 mortality rate reduced by 53% in the past 25 years and therefore missed the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) target of a 2/3 reduction. Roughly one-third of the world’s countries – 62 in all – have actually met the MDG target to reduce under-five mortality by two-thirds, while another 74 have reduced rates by at least half.

A child’s chance of survival is still vastly different based on where he or she is born. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world with 1 child in 12 dying before his or her fifth birthday – more than 12 times higher than the 1 in 147 average in high-income countries. In 2000-2015, the region has overall accelerated its annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality to about two and a half times what it was in 1990-2000. Despite low incomes, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania have all met the MDG target.

The world as a whole has been accelerating progress in reducing under-five mortality – its annual rate of reduction increased from 1.8 per cent in 1990-2000 to 3.9 per cent in 2000-2015. In an accompanying Lancet paper (…/PIIS0140-6736%2815%2900…/abstract), we assess the progress over the last 25 years and project likely child deaths under a range of scenarios between 2015 and 2030. If countries continue to improve child survival at current rates, 69 million children will still die over the next 15 years. This rate of reduction will need to increase if the world is to meet the new Sustainable Development Goal to end preventable child deaths by 2030.


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