UN Report Finds Newborn Child Mortality Rates on the Rise
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
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A UN report published by the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME) underscores a need for progress on reducing child mortality.

The report finds that the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period increased from 41% in 2000 to 46% in 2016.

The UN emphasizes that reducing inequities and reaching the most vulnerable children are critical for achieving SDG target 3.2 on ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age by 2030.

19 October 2017: Unless progress is made to reduce child mortality, approximately 60 million children will die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030, half while they are newborns, according to a UN report published by the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME). The report warns that, without accelerated progress, the world will not meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets on ending maternal and child deaths.

The report titled, ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017,’ finds that, although the number of under-five deaths has significantly decreased, from 9.9 million in 2000 to 5.6 million in 2016, the proportion of under-five deaths in the newborn period increased from 41 percent to 46 percent during the same period. In 2016, 7,000 children died in the first 28 days of life and 15,000 died before their fifth birthday.

According to the report, most newborn deaths occurred in Southern Asia (39 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (38 percent), with India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia accounting for half of these deaths. Other challenges highlighted in the report include: pneumonia and diarrhea, which claim the lives of millions of under-five children, accounting for 16 percent and 8 percent of deaths, respectively; preterm birth complications and complications during labor or childbirth, which caused 30 percent of newborn deaths in 2016; and 2.6 million stillborn babies each year, many from preventable causes.

To reverse these trends, the report calls for: providing marginalized families with access to quality healthcare; improving the quality of and access to services during and after childbirth; reducing global inequities; providing lifesaving interventions, such as immunization, breastfeeding and inexpensive medicines; and increasing access to water and sanitation.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin emphasized that reducing inequities and reaching the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers are critical for achieving SDG target 3.2 on ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five. Under target 3.2, all countries aim to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 deaths per 1,000 live births and under five mortality to at least as low as 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, by 2030. The report states that, unless progress improves, more than 60 countries will be unable to end preventable deaths of newborns by 2030, and half will not meet the target of 12 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births by 2050. Conversely, if every country achieves the SDG target on child survival by 2030, an additional 10 million lives of children under age five will be saved.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 child in 36 dies in the first month. In high-income countries, the ratio is 1 in 333.

The report explains that, in sub-Saharan Africa, 1 child in 36 dies in the first month, while in high-income countries, the ratio is 1 in 333. Mortality data for older children age five to 14 was also included in the report for the first time. Approximately one million children in this age range died in 2016 from accidents and injuries, among other causes.

UN IGME was formed in 2004 to share data on child mortality, harmonize estimates within the UN system, improve methods for child mortality estimation, report on progress towards child survival goals and enhance country capacity to produce properly assessed estimates of child mortality. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) leads the IGME, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). [WHO Press Release] [WHO Infographic] [World Bank Press Release] [Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017] [UN IGME Website]

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