Where do we stand?

Causes of deaths among children under 5 years by percentage (2008)

Bar Chart

Quick Facts

  • The number of children in developing countries who died before they reached the age of five dropped from 100 to 72 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2008.
  • Almost nine million children still die each year before they reach their fifth birthday.
  • The highest rates of child mortality continue to be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where, in 2008, one in seven children died before their fifth birthday.
  • Of the 67 countries defined as having high child mortality rates, only 10 are currently on track to meet the MDG target.
A healthy newborn baby in a Philippines hospital. The Government has been working to reduce infant deaths, especially in rural areas.
Essential Care. Photo: Oliver Belarga

Fewer child deaths

Child deaths are falling, but not quickly enough. Between 1990 and 2008, the death rate for children under five has decreased by 28 per cent, from 100 to 72 deaths per 1,000 live births. That means that, worldwide, 10,000 fewer under-fives die each day.

Many countries have shown considerable progress in tackling child mortality. Almost one third of the 49 least developed countries have managed to reduce their under five mortality rates by 40 per cent or more over the past twenty years. However, the current rate of progress is well short of the MDG target of a two-thirds reduction by 2015.

Little progress in sub-Saharan Africa

Since 1990, child mortality rates have been more than halved in Northern Africa, Eastern Asia, Western Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. By contrast, many countries with unacceptably high rates of child mortality, most notably in sub-Saharan Africa, have made little or no progress in recent years.

While under-five mortality rates have declined by 22 per cent since 1990 in sub-Saharan Africa, high fertility rates and the slow pace of reducing deaths mean that the absolute number of children who have died has actually increased, from four million in 1990 to 4.4 million in 2008. Sub-Saharan Africa has one fifth of the world’s children under the age of five, and it accounted for half of their 8.8 million deaths in 2008. In Southern Asia too, child mortality rates remain high, with progress insufficient to meet the 2015 target.

1.11 years
until 2015

1990 2015