Under-5 child deaths drop considerably

Due in large part to improved immunization practices, as well as efforts to eradicate polio, measles, and HIV and AIDS, many of the world’s poorest countries have seen great reductions in the number of children who die before their fifth birthday.

By Chris Huber, and Shawna Templeton, World Vision U.S.
Published September 20, 2012 at 08:45am PDT

Good news! More children than ever before are surviving past their fifth birthday, according to a new report (pdf) from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Progress, but some regions falling behind

A report on worldwide child mortality rates shows the number of under-5 deaths has dropped significantly, from 12 million in 1990 to 6.9 million in 2011.

Though the global rate improved, 82 percent of all under-5 deaths in 2011 occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, up from 68 percent in 1990.

However, many of the world’s poorest countries have seen great reductions in the number of children who die before age 5, due in large part to efforts to eradicate polio, measles, and HIV and AIDS, as well as improved immunization practices.

Undernutrition contributes to more than one-third of under-5 deaths, the report adds. Because of chronic hunger, one-quarter of the world’s children — about 165 million — are stunted. Eight percent of all children under 5 suffer wasting, which is severe acute malnutrition.

‘The last mile is always the hardest’

While this reduction in child deaths is cause for jubilation, Steve Reynolds, World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign director in the United States, cautions that there is still a long road ahead before we reach near-zero preventable child deaths.

“This is truly a reason to celebrate, but we still have a long way to go in closing the gap,” says Reynolds. “6.9 million preventable deaths is 6.9 million too many, and the last mile is always the hardest.”

A healthy start in life is essential to the long-term health and well-being of the child. As a child-focused organization, World Vision works to bring maternal and child healthcare to communities lacking these life-saving services for mothers and children. Some child and maternal health interventions include:

  • Midwifery training
  • Maternal and infant nutrition
  • Vitamin supplementation
  • Immunizations
  • Post-partum counseling
  • Breastfeeding coaching

World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign aims to ensure that children can grow up healthy with access to basic health services, adequate nutrition, and disease prevention.

Through this campaign, we support communities in raising their voices about their right to quality healthcare and press national governments to meet their responsibilities to children, mothers, families, and communities.

How you can help

Thank God for this reduction in preventable child deaths. Pray that we would have the will to continue supporting and advocating for early childhood interventions to keep all children healthy.

Make a donation to the Survive to Five Challenge. Because of government grants, any gift you give will triple in impact to help deliver life-saving interventions to children at greatest risk — like insecticide-treated bed nets, therapeutic food, vaccinations, clean water, and more.


  • The number of under-5 deaths has dropped significantly.
  • Malnutrition among young children remains a serious concern.
  • "There is still a long road ahead."

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