U.N.: Child Mortality Is Falling Fast, but Not Fast Enough

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Sept. 13 2013 12:16 PM

U.N.: Child Mortality Is Falling Fast, but Not Fast Enough

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A handout photograph taken taken on March 16, 2013 and released on March 18 by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team shows a Somali boy jumping between fishing boats above Mogadishu's fishing harbor near the fish market in the Xamar Weyne district of Mogadishu.

Photo by STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images

In a bit of good news for the end of a difficult week, a U.N. Report released yesterday (via Mark Leon Goldberg) finds that global childhood mortality rate–the number of children who die before the age of 5—has declined by 47 percent since 1990, from 90 out of 1,000 live births to 48. The bad news is that the world appears likely to fall short of the Millennium Development Goal, adopted in 1990, of reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds by 2015.

As the map below shows, childhood mortality is now increasingly geographically concentrated, with sub-Saharan Africa accounting for nearly half of the world’s deaths before the age of five. This region plus South Asia account for more than 80 percent of them. Mortality declined by only 45 percent in this region. Just two countries–India and Nigeria–account for more than a third of these deaths. East Asia saw the most progress–driven largely by China–with a 74 percent decline:

mortalitymap
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Childhood mortality is one of the starkest divides between rich and poor countries, with the entire developed world accounting for just 1.4 percent of under-five deaths.

Taking the approach of this post last week and looking at the world as one country, the world might soon be an upper income country its infant mortality rate is still slightly worse than South Africa’s. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. Follow him on Twitter.