Despite progress, estimated 6.3 million children died in 2017: UN report

The death of children below the age of five years continues to steadily reduce in India, declining from nearly 22 per cent in 2012 to 18 per cent in 2017, which is now for the first time below the one million mark, as per a new UN report released on September 17, 2018.

The latest Levels and Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2018 from UNICEF and partners in the UN Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) shows the full scope of child and mortality rates across the world – from newborns to adolescents.

The report finds that globally, the under-five mortality rate has dropped by more than half (1990-2017), but inequities persist among and within countries.

The Report: Key Highlights

The report reveals that over the last two decades, the world made substantial progress in reducing mortality among children and young adolescents.

Despite the progress, in 2017 alone, an estimated 6.3 million children and young adolescents died, mostly from preventable causes. The children under the age of 5 years accounted for 5.4 million of these deaths and newborns accounted for around half of the deaths.

Among children and young adolescents, the risk of dying was highest in the first month of life at an average rate of 18 deaths per 1,000 live births globally in 2017.

While the chances of survival have increased for all age groups since 2000, the progress has been uneven.

The largest improvements in survival for children under the age of 5 years occurred among children aged 1−4 years. The mortality in this age group declined by 60 per cent from 2000 to 2017.

Still, the report revealed that children face widespread regional and income disparities in their chances of survival.

According to the report, the Sub-Saharan Africa region had the highest under-five mortality rate in the world. In 2017, the region had an average under-five mortality rate of 76 deaths per 1,000 live births.

On current trends, 56 million children under 5 years of age are projected to die between 2018 and 2030, half of them newborns.

In 2017, 118 countries already had an under-five mortality rate below the SDG target of a mortality rate at least as low as 25 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Among the remaining countries, progress will need to be accelerated in about 50 countries to achieve the SDG target by 2030.


The SDG goal 3 calls for an end to preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age and specifies that all countries should 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.

Child Survival Trend in India

According to the UN report, the death of children below the age of five years continues to steadily reduce in India, declining from nearly 22 per cent in 2012 to 18 per cent in 2017, which is now for the first time below the one million mark.

The under-five mortality rate of India at 39 per 1000 live births now equals that of the world, highlighting the much faster decline by India in the last five years as compared to the global decline.

In fact, the gender gap in child survival has reduced almost four-fold in the last five years, with under-five mortality of girl child now being 2.5 per cent higher, compared to nearly 10 per cent in 2012.

Factors impacting Child Mortality

According to Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Research Director, major progress in reducing child mortality has been made in the last quarter century, with the toll dropping by more than half since 1990, but ‘millions are still dying because of who they are, and where they are born.’

Globally in 2017, half of all deaths under five years of age took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 per cent in Southern Asia.

In 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month. A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country.

Preventable Causes

As per the UN, most children under five die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria.

In case of children between the age group of 5 and 15, the report revealed that injuries become a more prominent cause of death, particularly road accidents and drowning.

Regional disparity

The report found that a rural-urban divide and disparity in household wealth contribute to inequitable child mortality outcomes within countries.

The children in rural areas are about 1.5 times more likely to die before they turn five than those in urban areas.

The children from poorer households in low-and-middle-income countries also remain disproportionately vulnerable to early death, with under-five mortality rates almost twice as high for the poorest households compared to the richest.


The analysis of household survey data indicates that a mother’s level of education has a powerful influence on the likelihood of a child’s survival.

The children born to mothers with no education are about 2.6 times more likely to die before turning five than those born to mothers who have completed secondary or higher education.


What can be done to improve the situation?

The report highlights that urgent measures are required in countries across the world to curb the child mortality rate and improve the survival chances of newborns, children and young adolescents.

The child deaths, particularly the ones that happen due to regional and socio-economic disparities, reflect the broader influence of sustainable social and economic development on a child’s health.

Hence, the urgent measures can involve simple solutions like ensuring basic health services such as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition, medicines, electricity, timely vaccines and more health facilities and doctors to every child.

Ending preventable deaths of children worldwide also require targeted interventions to the age-specific causes of death among children and young adolescents.

Further, to achieve sustainable and equitable progress towards 2030 and beyond, disparities in child survival within countries must also be addressed.

Important Current Affairs of August 2018

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