21 % of under-five deaths are in India

A family mourning death of a child on the street in Triplicane area in Chennai

A family mourning death of a child on the street in Triplicane area in ChennaiNEW DELHI: First the good news — 10,000 fewer children are now dying every day before reaching their fifth birthday compared to 1990. The bad news — India alone accounts for 21% of the under-five mortality of the globe. In fact, half of the deaths occurred in India, Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan and China. Interestingly, among them, India and Nigeria together accounted for nearly one-third of the total number of under-five deaths worldwide (21% and 12%, respectively).

According to a new Unicef study, published in ‘Lancet’ on Friday, there has been a 28% decline in the under-five mortality rate since 1990. In absolute numbers, this means that under-five child deaths in 2008 declined to 8.8 million from 12.5 million in 1990.

Nineteen years ago, 90 children per 1,000 live births died before their fifth birthday. This stands at 65 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008. Unicef executive director Ann M Veneman said, “While progress is being made, it is unacceptable that each year 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday.” The new estimates show that the average rate of decline of under-five mortality from 2000 to 2008 is 2.3% compared to a 1.4% average decline from 1990 to 2000.

An exciting finding has been that seven of the 67 high mortality countries (those with under-five mortality rates of 40 per 1,000 live births or higher) have consistently achieved annual rates of reduction of under-five mortality of 4.5% or higher. These are Nepal, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Laos, Mongolia, Bolivia and Malawi.
Pneumonia and diarrhoea are the two leading causes of the deaths.

These new estimates calculated by Unicef, WHO, World Bank and United Nations Population Division pointed to another interesting fact that under-five mortality is increasingly getting concentrated with 75% of these deaths occurring in only 18 countries, including India. Around 40% of the 8.8 million children who die globally every year are from India, Nigeria and Congo.

Africa (51%) and Asia (42%) combined still account for 93% of all under-five deaths that occur each year. Mortality in developing countries (71 deaths per 1,000) was 12 times that in industrialised countries (6 per 1,000). “A handful of countries with large populations bear a disproportionate burden of under-five deaths.

Unless mortality in these countries is significantly reduced, the target of achieving the goal of a two-thirds reduction in the under-five mortality rate by 2015 will not be met,” said the report. 

Kounteya Sinha, TNN 12 September 2009

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