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Last update: Sep 2013



The latest estimates on child mortality generated by the UN Inter-agency Group on Child Mortality Estimation were released on 13 September 2013: Levels and Trends in Child Mortality, Report 2013.







UNICEF also released Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed – Progress Report 2013.




Key findings from these publications are available in the six-page brochure 2013 Statistical Snapshot: Child Mortality.








• Overall, substantial progress has been made towards achieving MDG 4. The number of under-five deaths worldwide has nearly halved, from 12.6 (12.4, 12.9) million in 1990 to 6.6 (6.3, 7.0) million in 2012. While that translates into around 17,000 fewer children dying every day in 2012 than in 1990, it still implies the deaths of nearly 18,000 children under age five every day in 2012.


• Since 1990 the global under-five mortality rate has dropped 47 percent—from 90 (89, 92) deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 (46, 51) in 2012. All regions, except for Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania, have reduced their under-five mortality rate by 50 percent or more.


• The average annual rate of reduction in under-five mortality has accelerated—from 1.2 percent a year over 1990–1995 to 3.9 percent over 2005–2012—but remains insufficient to reach MDG 4, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. All regions with the exception of West and Central Africa and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole have at least halved their rates of under-five mortality since 1990.


• Since 1990, 216 million children have died before their fifth birthday — more than the current total population of Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country. The highest rates of child mortality are still in sub-Saharan Africa, with an under-five mortality rate of 98 deaths per 1,000 live births—more than 15 times the average for developed regions. 


• South Asia has made strong progress on reducing preventable child deaths, more than halving its number of deaths among children under 5 since 1990. But nearly one in every three under-five deaths still takes place in this region, and it has not seen a major acceleration in the rate of reduction.


• Sub-Saharan Africa faces a unique and urgent challenge in accelerating progress. By mid-century it will be the region with the single biggest population of children under 5, accounting for 37% of the global total and close to 40% of all live births. And it is the region with least progress on under-five mortality to date.


• Within sub-Saharan Africa, there is beginning to be a divergence in child survival trends between Eastern and Southern Africa, and West and Central Africa. Eastern and Southern Africa has managed to reduce its under-five mortality rate by 53% since 1990. In contrast, West and Central Africa has seen a drop of just 39% in its under-five mortality rate since 1990, the lowest among all regions.


• About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and China. India (22 percent) and Nigeria (13 percent) together account for more than a third of all under-five deaths.


• The proportion of under-five deaths that occur within the first month of life (the neonatal period) has increased 19 percent since 1990, from 37 percent to 44 percent, because declines in the neonatal mortality rate are slower than those in the mortality rate for older children.


• The leading causes of death among children under age five include pneumonia (17 percent of all under-five deaths), preterm birth complications (15 percent), intrapartum-related complications (complications during birth; 10 percent), diarrhoea (9 percent) and malaria (7 percent). Globally, about 45 percent of under-five deaths are attributable to undernutrition.


• Seven high-mortality countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Timor-Leste and United Republic of Tanzania) have already reduced their under-five mortality rates by two-thirds or more since 1990; six of these countries are low-income, proving that low national income is not a barrier to making faster and deeper gains in child survival. A further 18 high-mortality countries have also managed to at least halve their under-five mortality rates over the same period.


Click  to read more about under-five mortality and neonatal mortality.


1. Values in parentheses indicate 90 percent uncertainty intervals for the estimates.
2. Regional classifications used here are UNICEF regions.


The UN Inter-agency Group on Child Mortality Estimation

The UN Inter-agency Group on Child Mortality Estimation was established in 2004 to share data on child mortality, harmonize estimates within the UN system, improve methods for child mortality estimation, report on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals and enhance country capacity to produce timely and properly assessed estimates of child mortality. The IGME, led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), also includes the World Bank and the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs as full members. An independent Technical Advisory Group of leading experts in the areas of demography and biostatistics advises the group. The group updates the estimates on child mortality annually.

Child mortality database

The child mortality database contains estimates for infant mortality and under-five mortality generated by the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation. Please visit the child mortality database (www.childmortality.org) to access the estimates. Click here to access the 2010 CME brochure.

Child mortality estimation methods

Details on the child mortality estimation methods can be found in the PLOS Medicine Collection on Child Mortality Estimation methods (www.ploscollections.org/childmortalityestimation).