13 September 2012

More children across the world survive their fifth birthday now than ever before. That's according to data released by UNICEF and its partners today.

The total estimated number of under-five deaths fell from nearly 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011.

The new figures show that it's possible to radically reduce child deaths by affordable ways including vaccines, basic health care, and education.

Low-income countries like Bangladesh, Liberia and Rwanda are among the countries that have all made dramatic gains, lowering their under-five mortality rates by more than two-thirds between 1990 and 2011.

The figures also show that considerable progress has been achieved in tackling some major childhood diseases, including measles, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

But despite significant advances, almost 19,000 children under the age of five died every day in 2011. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia together accounted for more than 80 per cent of all deaths. In Sub-Saharan Africa, on average, one child in nine dies before the age of five.

"The world has made huge strides in reducing child deaths, even in some of the world's poorest countries like Liberia, through the hard work and dedication of governments, donors, agencies and individuals", said David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK.

"These remarkable achievements would not have been possible without international aid, and highlights how important it is for that investment to continue."

Commenting on the new data, the UK Government's International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said:

"It is heartening to see a real reduction in these figures but it is shocking that children worldwide are still dying of preventable causes.

"This is why are we are committed to help immunise up to 250 million children in developing countries by 2015.

"We will strive to save the lives of at least 250,000 newborn babies by the same date and we are tackling big killers such as inadequate nutrition and poor water and sanitation. We will also save children's lives by improving the welfare of their mothers: by keeping more girls in school, by empowering women to decide when and if to have children, and by ensuring access to skilled care when they do."

 
Kaniz Fatema and her newborn child at Jamalpur General Hospital in Bangladesh. Under-five mortality in Bangladesh fell by over two thirds between 1990 and 2011. © UNICEF/BANA2011-00892/Habibul Haque
Kaniz Fatema and her newborn child at Jamalpur General Hospital in Bangladesh. Under-five mortality in Bangladesh fell by over two thirds between 1990 and 2011.© UNICEF/BANA2011-00892/Habibul Haque

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