UN: 10 more years needed to reach MDG on child mortality

Jee Y. Geronimo
UN: 10 more years needed to reach MDG on child mortality
About 16,000 children under 5 die every day in 2015 due to preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria


MANILA, Philippines – It will take 10 more years before the world hits the 4th target in the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the United Nations (UN) said in its final MDG report.

The target set during the UN Millennium Declaration in 2000 is to cut by 2/3 the under-5 mortality rate globally. In 1990, 90 deaths per 1,000 live births were recorded.

Twenty-five years later, the number has dramatically gone down to 43 deaths. This translates to almost 6 million deaths – or 11 deaths per minute – compared to 1990’s 12.7 million deaths.

Under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births)
REGIONS 1990 2015 % CHANGE
Sub-Saharan Africa 179 86 52%
Oceania 74 51 31%
Southern Asia 126 50 60%
Caucasus and Central Asia 73 33 55%
South-Eastern Asia 71 27 62%
Northern Africa  73 24 67%
Western Asia 65 23 65%
Latin America and the Caribbean 54 17 69%
Eastern Asia 53 11 78%
Developed regions 15 6 61%
Developing regions 100 47 53%

Of the 6 million:

  • 1 million will take their first and final breath on the day they are born
  • 1 million will die in the first week
  • 2.8 million will die during the first 28 days of life

“Despite the impressive improvements in most regions, current trends are not sufficient to meet the MDG target. At today’s rate of progress, it will take about 10 more years to reach the global target,” the report read.

children under five die every day
due to preventable causes such as
pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria

Source: 2015 MDG report

Sub-Saharan Africa still has the world’s highest child mortality rate in 2015, but it also saw the largest decline from rates in 1990.

This region accounts for 3 million of the world’s under-5 deaths in 2015. The UN said progress in reducing child mortality must be enough in this region to outpace its population growth. 

But globally, the annual rate of reducing under-5 mortality has more than tripled since 1990. The rate has accelerated in countries of all income levels, except in high-income countries.

Infant mortality, inequality

For infants under the 28-days-old category, the number of neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births has also gone down from 33 in 1990 to 19 in 2015.

Causes of neonatal deaths: 

  • Preterm birth complications (35%)
  • Complications during labor and delivery (24%)
  • Sepsis (15%)

The decline in deaths for this age group has been slower; in fact, the UN said neonatal deaths now represent a larger share in the total number of under-5 deaths.

“Many neonatal deaths could be avoided with simple, cost-effective and high-impact interventions that address the needs of women and newborns across the continuum of care, with an emphasis on care around the time of birth,” the MDG report read.

Reducing socioeconomic disparities will help further improve child survival, the UN said.

Although equity is improving, data show that children from poorer households are still “disproportionately vulnerable” compared to those in the wealthiest households, with under-5 mortality rates almost twice as high in the poorest households.

And compared to children from urban areas, those in rural areas are about 1.7 times more likely to die before their 5th birthday.

A mother’s education also matters in child survival, as children born to mothers with secondary or higher education are almost 3 times as likely to survive compared to children born to mothers with no education.

Immunization vs measles

Measles vaccination over the past decade has helped prevent nearly 15.6 million deaths among children between 2000 and 2013. Most or 93% of the deaths in 2013 were recorded in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Measles cases have also gone down by 67%.

MEASLES 2000 2013
CASES more than 853,000 under 279,000
DEATHS 544,200 145,700

But the number of cases in 2013 still increased from 2012 (227,700 cases).

“Unfortunately, continued outbreaks – due to weak routine immunization systems and delayed implementation of accelerated disease control – have stalled momentum towards achievement of regional and global targets for measles control and elimination,” the report read.

Global measles vaccine coverage has also improved from 2000 to 2013.

Global measles vaccine coverage
  2000 2009 2010 2013
MCV1  73% 83% 83-84% 83-84%
MCV2 15%    53%

But there has been little progress since 2010, as estimates showed 21.6 million infants – many from the poorest and most marginalized communities – did not get the first of two measles vaccine shots in 2013.

The UN urged countries to continue campaigning for measles elimination, and to invest in greater immunization coverage. 

While the MDGs have led to “dramatic and unprecedented” progress in reducing child deaths, there is still more work ahead which the UN said will require “political will, sound strategies and adequate resources.” (READ: Protecting the newborn and the unborn)

“With millions of women and children still at risk of dying of preventable causes, maternal, newborn and child survival must remain at the heart of the post-2015 global development agenda.” – Rappler.com 

Newborn baby image via Shutterstock

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.