Child mortality

Millenium Development Goal (MDG) 4

Updated September 2011

The fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4) aims to reduce the 1990 mortality rate among under-five children by two thirds. Child mortality is also closely linked to MDG 5- to improve maternal health. Since more than one third of all child deaths occur within the first month of life, providing skilled care to mothers during pregnancy, as well as during and after birth, greatly contributes to child survival. Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2000 aim to decrease child deaths worldwide by 2015.

Main causes of children deaths
Children causes of death graph thumbnai
Enlarge image
Source: Countdown to 2015 2010 Report

Key facts

The challenge – accelerating child survival

Latest figures show that 9.2 million children under-five are dying every year, down from over 12 million in 1990. Most of these children are dying in developing countries from preventable causes for which there are known and cost-effective interventions. Unless efforts are increased there will be little hope of averting the additional 5.4 million child deaths per year, or a reduction of two-thirds, needed to achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 by 2015.

Key facts: uneven and insufficient progress

Child mortality rates
MDG 4 thumbnail
Enlarge image
Sources: Levels and trends in child mortality, Report 2010. WHO/UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank, 2010

Causes of under-five child deaths

Six conditions account for about 70% of all child deaths: acute lower respiratory infections, mostly pneumonia (19%), diarrhoea (18%), malaria (8%), measles, (4%), HIV/AIDS (3%), and neonatal conditions, mainly pre-term birth, birth asphyxia, and infections (37%). The relative contribution of HIV/AIDS to the total mortality of children under-five, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, has also been increasing steadily. Malnutrition is a factor in more than half of the children who die after the first month of life.

Why are death tolls still high?

What can be done?

Countdown to 2015 – Tracking Progress in Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival

The Countdown to 2015 Initiative collects and analyses data from 68 countries that account for at least 95 % of maternal and child deaths, working to create an account of progress towards the achievement of MDGs 4 and 5. The Countdown Initiative has released Reports in 2005, 2008 and 2010 and produces country profiles that present coverage data for a range of key health services including:

Coverage of essential interventions
Enlarge image