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In 2015, the global child mortality rate is less than half its 1990 levels, but the MDG 4 target has not been met

Emi Suzuki's picture
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New child mortality estimates [PDF 4.2 Mb] released today by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) show major progress globally. Between 1990 and 2015, the global under-five mortality rate dropped 53 percent from 91 to 41 deaths per 1,000. But this drop is still not enough to meet the global MDG4 target of a two-thirds reduction between 1990 and 2015.


In this final year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), two out of six regions have met the MDG4 target: East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, whereas the Europe and Central Asia, and Middle East and North Africa regions fell slightly short. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, progress remains insufficient to reach the target.

Identifying poor-rich gaps in accessing maternal health care

Haruna Kashiwase's picture

The most recent data show significant strides in reducing maternal mortality at the national level over the past 20 years.  Improvements in access to maternal health care, especially in skilled birth assistance, have contributed to the reduction of maternal mortality. 

While these improvements are impressive, the national level data often mask inequalities in skilled birth assistance within countries. There may be gaps within a country, for example, where wealthy women might have better access than women from poor households. According to the World Health Organization, "The high number of maternal deaths in some areas of the world reflects inequities in access to health services, and highlights the gap between rich and poor."

Global child mortality rate dropped 49% since 1990

Emi Suzuki's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Español | Français

The under-5 mortality rate worldwide has fallen by 49% since 1990, according to new child mortality estimates and press release launched today. This information is also summarized in the report Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014 by the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME).  Put another way, about 17,000 fewer children under-5 died each day in 2013 than in 1990.

These rates are falling faster than at any other time during the past two decades: from a 1.2% annual reduction during 1990-1995 to a 4% reduction during 2005-2013. 

More children making it to their fifth birthday
The major improvements in under-5 child survival since 1990 are attributable to better access to affordable, quality health care, as well as the expansion of health programs that reach the most vulnerable newborns and children.

The 49% drop – from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990, to 46 deaths in 2013 – means that a baby born today has a dramatically better chance of survival to age 5 compared with a baby born in 1990.   

More progress needed to achieve the global Millennium Development Goal 4 target
Four out of 6 World Bank Group regions are on track to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), which is to reduce the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015.  Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are two regions where the rates of decline remain insufficient to reach MDG 4 on a global scale.  In 2013, the highest under-5 mortality rate was in Sub-Saharan Africa, where there were 92 deaths per 1,000 live births or where 1 in 11 children die before reaching the age of 5.

Chart 1

Between 1960 and 2012, the world average fertility rate halved to 2.5 births per woman

Emi Suzuki's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español

There were more than 7 billion people on earth in 2013. While this is the highest number ever, the population growth rate has been steadily declining, in part due to declining fertility rates.  Tomorrow, Friday, July 11, is World Population Day, and in this spirit, I'd like to talk about a key component of population growth: fertility rates.

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Lives on the line: reducing under-five child mortality rates in Africa

Dereje Ketema Wolde's picture
As countries all across Africa recognize International Day of the African Child today, I thought it would be a timely opportunity to blog about the progress of under-five child mortality rates over the past two decades.  But first, some data for us to understand the big picture:
  • On a global level, the rate of under-five child mortality has been cut in half, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012.  The estimated annual number of under-five deaths has fallen from 12.6 million to 6.6 million over the same period.
  • Since 1990, 216 million children worldwide have died before their fifth birthday — more than the current total population of Brazil, the world's fifth most populous country.
  • Disparities between children in the high-income and low-income countries have narrowed, but many gaps still remain.  Case in point: In Luxembourg, the under-five mortality rate is just 2 deaths per 1,000 live births; in Sierra Leone, it is 182 deaths per 1,000 births.

As we stand a year away from the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 – which aims to reduce the global under-five child mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015 – the pace of reduction would have needed to quadruple in 2013-2015 to achieve this goal, according to the United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF's) Committed to Child Survival: A Promised Renewed – Progress Report 2013.

A closer look at regional rates
Now let's take a look at the regional and country level data by viewing the World Development Indicators (WDI) 2014 and the indicator under-five mortality rate. The WDI also features a short progress report on MDG 4, which complements the detailed analysis of the World Bank Group's Global Monitoring Report.  This report uses the same methodology to assess whether countries are on track or off track to meet the 2015 targets.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where one in ten children die before the age of five, faces the biggest challenges in achieving MDG 4, followed by South Asia.  The SSA region reduced its child mortality rate by 45% during 1990 to 2012, the only region to reduce its under-five mortality rate by less than half during this time.  SSA also lags behind other regions in its pace of decline in the total number of under-five deaths.

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Data, Differences, and Digging Deeper

Neil Fantom's picture

Explaining the differences in today’s global society is a topic that clearly captures the interest of many: as I write this blog, the hardback version of Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” is second on Amazon’s best-seller list. That’s not bad for a pretty hefty book about economics and the distribution of wealth!

Another publication – the 2014 edition of World Development Indicators (WDI) 2014 – was also released in the last few weeks: it’s not likely to reach the bestseller list on Amazon, but it does also reveal some startling differences in the lives of people around the world, and the challenges they face. Here’s one statistic: a newborn child born in Sierra Leone will be 90 times more likely to die before her fifth birthday than a newborn child born in Luxembourg. And the estimated probabilities of dying before five? In Sierra Leone, in 2012, it was 18%, or just under 1 in 5 – the highest in the world. In Luxembourg, that probability was just 0.2%, or about 1 in 500 – the lowest in the world. Since it really is quite shocking, maybe I should repeat it: almost 1 in 5 children born in Sierra Leone will die before they reach the age of five.

289,000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth

Emi Suzuki's picture

Every day, 800 women die from pregnancy-related causes during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Over 99% of these 289,000 annual deaths occur in developing countries, and most are avoidable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known. About 62% of the deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa with another 24% in South Asia – these two regions together account for 85% of maternal mortality in the world.

Absolute number of maternal deaths by region (2013)